There is an old saying that the real Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday, and it continues to be true. Amen Corner does it. Those holes with the water and shadows and swirling breezes and demon options. Plus the aquatic dangers of 15 and 16 and the last treacherous green, where so many putts have ripped at the hearts of so many players.
Miller will see Nicklaus winning this Masters as his own short birdie try creeps just outside the cup at the 10th, as his two-footer twists out of the cup at the 11th for a bogey, as both he and Weiskopf have one final chance for a birdie at 18 and Miller's 20-footer makes a cruel left-hand turn at the last moment.
Weiskopf will see Nicklaus winning this Masters as "a fat five-iron" fails to carry the embankment at the 11th green and plunges into the blue pond. He rescues a bogey with a marvelous wedge shot, but the damage has been done. He will also see Nicklaus whipping him again as he bogeys the 16th hole—as he had bogeyed it to lose a year ago—with a sad iron off the tee and a deplorable chip shot. And lastly, after Miller misses, Weiskopf will watch an eight-foot birdie putt on the final green hold above the cup when it seemed it had to go slightly left, drop and force a playoff.
"I can't believe I lost this tournament," Weiskopf said. "The luck balances out. It comes down to the last hole and you hit a good drive, a good approach shot and good putt, and it stays out. One of these days the putt is going in and I'll win a Masters."
If Nicklaus won the day with his own heroics, the champion did it with one long iron shot at the 15th hole and with a birdie putt at the 16th that traveled 40 wondrous feet into the hole and made Nicklaus and his caddie, Willie Peterson, resemble Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
When Nicklaus reached his drive in the 15th fairway, he trailed Weiskopf by one stroke and knew he had to have a birdie at the very least. The shot was a 240-yard one-iron over the water on this par-5 that has decided so many Masters. You knew Nicklaus liked it the instant he took the cut at it, and, indeed, he later called it the best pressure shot of his life. For the entire distance the ball was on the flag, a double eagle without knickers and the thumb off the shaft. Not really a deuce, of course, but one heck of a golf shot when he had to have it. It gave him an easy two-putt birdie from roughly 15 feet, and sent him glint-eyed toward the 16th. He liked the iron on the 16th but it fell short, and now he faced one of those long putts he hadn't made in a couple of days. It was right on line and the speed looked perfect. One last curl to the left and down it went, and Nicklaus leaped and started running to his right. The ensuing roar alone might have destroyed any other competitors but Miller and Weiskopf.
The Masters always encompasses daily dramas, as well as numerous human-interest episodes. This year one of them featured Lee Elder, the first black man to win an invitation. Elder came in a pleasant mood but uttered a few "no comments" about his feelings and said he would withhold all of his innermost thoughts until an official press conference on Tuesday. The conference was staged, but it was matched in dullness only by a conversation about the state of health of the wisteria vine on the big oak outside the main clubhouse door.
Elder finished up with a two-over 74 that he claimed to be happy with. There were no incidents, other than a few rednecks on the bank of the 16th green whooping and applauding when he missed a short putt. People were polite and gave him a generous hand as he trudged up and down the hills.
It was suspected that Elder would play poorly at Augusta because he was unfamiliar with the course, which turned out to be the case. He shot a 78 on Friday and missed becoming one of the 46 players to make the 36-hole cut. At Augusta it is possible for the entire field to make the cut, for the rules state that anyone within 10 strokes of the leader is eligible to hang around on Saturday and Sunday. But Nicklaus had set such a fast pace with his 135 that he sent more players packing than usual.
Someone said, Well, Elder missed the cut but look who made it: a Japanese (Jumbo Ozaki), a Chinese (Mr. Lu), an Indian (Rod Curl), three Mexicans (Trevino, Homero Blancas, Vic Regalado), one Englishman (Maurice Bembridge), two Australians (Graham Marsh, Bruce Devlin), three South Africans (Gary Player, Bobby Cole, Hugh Baiocchi) and two amateurs (George Burns, Jerry Pate).