But as Sunday's round began, Nicklaus looked as if he was going to keep on doing what he had been doing, which was knocking the ball tight and putting loose. He missed four-footers at the 4th and the 6th, and when he got to the 9th tee, he was right where he started—two under. He was also five shots behind Norman.
Then, suddenly, all heaven broke loose.
Playing two groups ahead of Ballesteros and Kite, four ahead of Price and Norman, Nicklaus finally got a birdie putt to drop, an 11-footer. Four shots back.
At the 10th, he birdied from 25 feet, which should have put him three back, except for an odd set of goings-on at No. 8, where both Kite and Ballesteros had left the hole without ever pulling their putters. Kite had holed a wedge from 81 yards for an eagle, followed by Ballesteros from 40 for another eagle. Not only did that speed up play considerably, but it also kept Nicklaus four back of the leader, now Ballesteros.
But when Ballesteros bogeyed No. 9 and Nicklaus answered with a birdie at the portal to Amen Corner, No. 11, Augusta National began to overheat like a $99 Impala. Two back.
Then Nicklaus did something that got him cooking. He made a bogey 4 at the 12th hole. Three back.
"I don't know why, but it really got me going," he said. "I knew I couldn't play defensive with the rest of the course. I knew I needed to be aggressive coming in."
On to the par-5 13th, the Curtis Strange Memorial Hole, where the Masters is often lost and rarely won and where Nicklaus bent a three-wood so precariously close to the woods that his part-time caddie and full-time son, Jackie, thought he had put it in the creek on the left-hand side. "Shots like that are a little too much for a 24-year-old heart, Dad," he told him. Dad hit a 210-yard three-iron over Rae's Creek and to within 30 feet, then two-putted for birdie. Two back.
Now it was Ballesteros's turn at 13, only he did it better, letting a six-iron drift lazily in left to right and sinking an eight-footer, his second eagle of the day and third of the tournament. At this rate, with the par-5 15th still to come, the Spaniard looked as if he could radio ahead with his sleeve length. Nicklaus now was four behind him, two back of Kite. See you at the awards stand, Seve.
Desperate, at the 15th, Nicklaus let loose a mammoth drive, 298 yards, so big it surprised even him. He had changed his swing (less hands) and his diet (more food). He had gone on the Eat to Win Diet and lost. "I was down to 170 pounds and I realized I couldn't play golf at 170," he said. He's up to 190 and hitting it farther than ever. Fat Jack is truly back.