James played well, and on the 9th and final green he posed for a picture with Arnie. Counting Palmer and Paul Azinger, who had hooked up with Driscoll's group on the back nine on Tuesday, in two days James had played with men who had won 38 majors, and by the eve of the tournament he was no longer an awestruck rookie. "The nerves are gone," he said. "I'm ready to play."
This was obvious from the 1st hole on Thursday, when he stiffed a sand wedge to eight feet and made birdie. On the par-5 2nd Driscoll got up and down from 50 yards for another bird. In the middle of the 3rd fairway is one of Augusta National's biggest leader boards, and on it was DRISCOLL, next to a gaudy red 2.
James continued to set his gallery atwitter, rolling in a 30-foot snake on the 4th hole to go three under. By now the brothers had their game faces on, too. One would crowd the ropes to get a look at what club James had pulled, then flash fingers to the others. On the 6th hole, a downhill par-3 with a nasty back pin placement, James hit a towering tee shot to six feet, bringing a smile and a shake of the head from playing partner Tom Watson. James missed that putt but got his fourth birdie on the 9th hole, denting the back of the cup with a lightning-quick 25-footer. The 32 equaled the best front-nine score for the week and was a record for an outgoing nine by an amateur.
The back nine began with a bogey, and it was a scramble from there. James had gotten back to four under when he blew his drive on the par-5 15th into the right rough, among the trees. Some 210 yards from the hole, over water, through a small gap in the pines, James went for the green. Laying up is not the Driscoll way. Last year Tim was playing in a member-member at Wannamoisett Country Club, in Rumford, R.I., when he uncorked a wayward approach at the par-4 14th. His ball settled on a patch of exposed earth in the middle of a pond. Undeterred, Tim stripped down to his boxers and, in his words, "swam a full-blown freestyle medley" out to play his ball. This previously unexplored portion of Wannamoisett is now known as Driscoll Island.
Anyway, back at the 15th, James's five iron shot got caught in the breeze and nickled back into the pond. When he followed this bogey by dumping his tee shot at 16 into the back bunker, it looked as if he was on the verge of blowing up. So, of course, he holed his impossible shot. With the pines still reverberating from the thunderous cheers, James's dad shook his hands as if he had just singed his fingertips. "If my cardiologist knew what I was going through," Richard said, "he'd have put me in the hospital. Jeepers creepers, this is too much."
James parred in for his 68, of which Watson, in his 28th Masters said, "This was the best round I've seen here by an amateur."
Driscoll was relaxed and understated in the glare of the spotlight. Not so Tim and Rich, who crashed James's postround press conference and offered quotes to every reporter in sight. That night, while James lay low in the Crow's Nest, the family flipped from channel to channel, watching the endless loops of highlights.
Friday brought the inevitable letdown, for all parties. "We're all a little flat today, including James," Rich's wife, Jill, said. Playing in the fourth-to-last group, on much firmer, faster greens, James went out in 38, then chunked a chip and made bogey at 10 to fall to one under. The tournament began slipping away at the par-3 12th. Driscoll jacked his ball into a bush on the hillside behind the green and made a double bogey. He was even par for the tournament when he stepped to the tee of the par-4 17th but made another double there. Knowing he needed a birdie on 18 to make the cut, Driscoll burned the left side of the cup from 15 feet, then tapped in for par and a 78.
The clan gathered behind the 18th green, quiet and somber. James's mother, Rose-Mary, would have none of it. "This wasn't life or death," she said. "Even if he had shot 108, it would have been a wonderful experience. He'll learn so much from this week."
Reflecting on the finish, James seemed to feel worse for his family than for himself. "As great as it was to have everybody here on Thursday, it was just as bad on Friday," he said. "I could see in their faces how badly they were hurting for me."