The gallery at 18 was too large, and O'Meara's two children were too small to see what happened next. All that Shaun, 8, and Michelle, 11, knew was that a very frightening sound went up from the crowd. Then Renay Appleby, wife of Tour player Stuart and a friend of the family's, turned to the kids and screamed, "You won! You won! You won!"
With that putt, O'Meara happily handed his share of the disputed tide of Best Player Never to Have Won a Major to Colin Montgomerie, who has now unified the belt, if you will. Asked last week by the American press corps in Augusta what he would do if he won the Masters, Montgomerie replied hilariously, "What would I do if I won? Well, I could sit here like you guys with a green jacket and a fancy tie and I'd wear it all day every day, and I'd buy a place in Augusta and come here all the time...."
O'Meara's reverence in victory was genuine, and so was his glee. When the winning putt fell, Woods went ape-spit with happiness in Butler Cabin, one cabin from Duval, who was also watching on TV. Scant moments later Tiger could hardly get the green jacket on the motor-skills-impaired O'Meara, who couldn't get his right hand into the sleeve. "I'm 41 years old," O'Meara reminded Woods, who was holding the jacket too high. "I can't get my arm way up there."
The green-jacket ceremony was then repeated for the ticket holders outside Butler Cabin, on the practice green that abuts 18. As it proceeded, Higginbotham quietly presented O'Meara's wife, Alicia, with various loosely affixed mementos from his white jumpsuit: the MASTERS logo on one pocket and his caddie number, 73, on the other. Michelle then ripped her father's name off Higginbotham's back. Never in your life have you seen a golfer on a putting green so happy to get Velcroed as Mark O'Meara.
Only the night before, he reflected on his childhood in Mission Viejo, Calif., and what a wonder it is that he would ever be mistaken for a professional golfer at all—whether that golfer be Mark O'Meara or Mark McCumber or anyone else. ("Tom Lehman, too," O'Meara said. "I get that a lot.")
"I washed clubs at the country club as a kid," O'Meara said. "Not because I was poor—I wasn't poor. I was just hoping to one day play on the PGA Tour and one day win one tournament." And winning a major? "That would fulfill a dream. No doubt about it."
Even to the runners-up this Masters was, "I don't know—dreamlike, maybe?" So said Duval, who waited for O'Meara's putt to fall, and knowing that it would. "Watching the tournament on television, I had seen too many funny things happen" he said, thinking of Nicklaus in 1986 and Norman in '96.
"Playing here is something I wish everyone could experience," said Duval, whose only regret, as he watched O'Meara's ball fall into the cup, was that "I didn't get to go back out there."
He didn't get to go through the looking glass, to the other side of the TV, as so many other players already had.