Ed Sneed can finally stand down, his place among those branded by dubious achievement having been taken by Greg Norman. But Sneed, whose five-shot collapse on the final day in the 1979 Masters had been the standard for Augusta until Norman squandered a six-stroke lead, took no pleasure in another's certain victory lost, even if it did get him off the hook. " Simon Hobday and a lot of the guys were joking that Norman was getting me out of the record books, but I didn't care about that," says Sneed, 51, who watched the final round of the Masters at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where he was preparing for last week's PGA Seniors Championship. "I still wanted to see Greg win. I think everybody did."
Norman's demise, coming on a closing 78 that included two crushing double-bogeys on the par-3s on the back nine, was much more dramatic than the bogey train that ran over Sneed in '79. Sneed shot 68-67-69 to open his five-stroke lead and came to the par-3 16th needing only to play the last three holes in two over par to win. Unlike Norman, Sneed got his tee shot onto the green, but it stopped in a pitch mark above the hole, which led to a three-putt bogey. At 17, Sneed missed a four-foot par putt and at 18 left a 3�-footer for par hanging on the lip. That dropped him into a tie with Fuzzy Zoeller and Tom Watson, and Zoeller won with a birdie on the second hole of the playoff.
"At the end of the round I was just kind of unlucky," Sneed remembers. "I lost it differently than Greg. I was closer than he was. Greg blew by Nick Faldo going the wrong way."
Sneed was 34 and a three-time winner on Tour when he had his Masters disaster. The loss had an effect on the rest of his career. Sneed won one other event, the 1982 Houston Open. By 1986 he was off the Tour, concentrating on golf course design and his job as an on-course commentator for ABC.
"I guess it was a dubious record to have," Sneed says, "but I always thought the press made more out of losing the Masters than I did. It's something that hurts, but it's not the end of the world—it's certainly not for Greg. I just hope that he gets the green jacket, because it would be a shame if he doesn't. He deserves one."