With 202 yards to go at 15 and the tournament in the balance, Nicklaus turned to Jackie and said, "You think a three would go very far here?" To which Jackie said, "Let's see it."
Obligingly, Nicklaus hit his four-iron to 12 feet and made the eagle putt for exactly that—a three. The crowd's yelp was downright frightening. Two back.
As Nicklaus walked from the 15th green to the 16th tee, one had the odd feeling of being indoors at, say, an overtime Kentucky basketball game, yet all the while being outdoors. That's loud.
And wild. Six-figure executives were slapping high fives. Women in $400 dresses were sprinting ahead to get a vantage point. "He's hot! He's hot! He's hot!" one man kept shrieking, perhaps about to ignite himself.
"The noise was deafening," said Nicklaus. "I couldn't hear anything. I mean, nothing! I wasn't trying to think about the leader board. All I knew was that I was putting the ball on the green and making birdies and I was going to keep on doing it."
As Ballesteros was walking up the 15th fairway after a King Kong-like drive, Nicklaus was pulling out a five-iron at the par-3 16th. "I nailed it," he said. But he couldn't see it. "I could hear the gallery at the green starting to rumble and I said, 'Oops, I've hit it close.' "
Oops, he had come within inches of a hole in one, the ball skittering three feet by the pin. The eruption from the gallery may have been the most resounding in Masters history, next to, of course, the one that greeted the putt that came next. One back.
What does one feel like when all around you, a golf course, a state, a country, are coming un-glued and you are the only person keeping them from imploding entirely? Ballesteros surely found out as he stood over his four-iron, 200 yards from the 15th green, his ears ringing. What he felt like when he hit it is unknown since he was off the Augusta property within minutes of the finish of his round. But to watch your Masters chances go kerplunk in green-dyed water as his did cannot be good for your est training.
"He had an awkward lie up on a knob, but he hit his last few iron shots heavy," Kite said. "It was a tough situation: the lie, the circumstances, what Nicklaus was doing, the noise. It was so noisy you couldn't even hear each other."
"I wasn't under pressure," Ballesteros said on Monday. "It's just that I hit too easy a swing with a four-iron. I should have hit a hard five. I played very good. Just one bad shot, that's all."