SI Vault
Alfred Wright
April 20, 1964
He said it was his greatest triumph, and when he achieved it late last Sunday afternoon, becoming the first man ever to win the Masters championship four times, there was no reason to doubt Arnold Palmer's assessment of his feat. Months without a victory on the tour, he had heard increasing talk that his career was in eclipse, that he could no longer summon forth the intensity of will and concentration required to win a major title. His answer was a show of majestic golf in the event he treasures most. He led, in effect, from the first tee shot to the last putt—a birdie putt, of course. He won by six strokes, and his 276 total was the second best score in the tournament's history. His attack on the course was beautifully planned and perfectly executed. So overwhelming was his performance that the impact of it seemed strangely muted. It was a four-day sports conquest best savored day by day as it developed to the seemingly inevitable climax that left Arnie once again the Masters' master.
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April 20, 1964

A Master To Top Them All

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Dave Marr was closest to Palmer throughout most of the afternoon and finally ended up six strokes behind him. Never in his five years on the tour has this slight, 30-year-old Houstonian played better golf, and no one was more pleased than his fellow pros. The son of a golf pro who died when Dave was still a boy, Marr belongs to an exclusive and distinguished fraternity of players who are known as "Claude's boys," men who honed their skills as assistants to Claude Harmon at Winged Foot. Because he does not hit the ball as far as the likes of Palmer and Nicklaus, Marr must play his approaches and putts with infinite finesse to keep abreast of the big hitters. This year he is suddenly learning that he is a much better golfer than he thought he was. Nobody expected him to play the long Augusta course so well, least of all himself.

A stroke behind Marr, there was a three-way tie among Peter Butler, the British PGA champion, Gary Player and indestructible old Jim Ferrier. Of these three, Player should not have been there; he should have been two strokes better off, tied with Devlin. Gary, playing late in the afternoon, had been chugging along steadily at par and losing a few strokes to Palmer when he suddenly got hot on the back nine with birdies at the 13th, 15th and 16th. Maybe there was going to be a chase after all. Nope. Player bounced his drive through the pine trees on 17 and ricocheted one off a spectator's folding chair on 18. These lapses cost him two bogeys and any real chance on Sunday.

Poor Jack Nicklaus—if such an adjective may be used to describe one of sport's most prosperous athletes—failed for the third straight day to get the ball into the hole with his putter. It is, however, a tribute to this exceptional golfer that his 71 should be regarded as something of a failure when it would be a triumph for almost anyone else. And there was one moment on Saturday when Nicklaus proved his character as no victory ever could. On the watery 12th hole, where he stood even par after a loosely played first nine and a good birdie at the 11th, he shanked his tee shot. That's right, he shanked it. The ball barely missed a press tower as it shot off at a crazy angle some 100 yards to the right. It was as if Helen Hayes had fallen flat on her face while making her opening night entrance. Jack's embarrassment before the enormous gallery was painful to see, but after he had overcome his surprise he grinned foolishly and said, "I thought I'd play it safe."

So Saturday was, after all, not so much of a chase as a panting struggle after Palmer. And as happens so often at the Masters, there was one specially heartwarming round turned in that added immeasurably to the day. This one was by Ben Hogan. It was a 67, and it was golf played the way Hogan played in his prime—lovely, intelligent drives and irons hit with such awesome authority that, as Marr described it, "He is playing a different game than the rest of us." True, it left Hogan still nine strokes behind Palmer, but that didn't matter at all. Only the very young and very practical would look at Hogan's score at dusk and then note aloud that if Palmer shot a 67 on Sunday he would have a 273 and break the scoring record for the Masters—Ben Hogan's record.


SUNDAY. At 5:26 this sunny afternoon what had seemed inevitable since late Friday afternoon, but actually had not been, finally happened. With his customary flair for the dramatic, Arnold Palmer sank a 25-foot putt on the 18th green to become the first and only four-time winner of the Masters. No achievement in modern golf compares with it except Ben Hogan's four victories in the U.S. Open. During his four hours on the Augusta National course this day two challengers had arisen—one large, famous and expectable; the other slim, far from renown, and surprising—and both had been shaken off by this new Arnie, one who, it would seem, prefers to get ahead and stay there instead of charging frantically from behind.

When Palmer teed off, his score for the first three rounds was 69-68-69. "At the start of the tournament," Arnold said, "I told all the reporters what score I thought would win, somewhere between 276 and 278, and I had tried to set that as my point of aim. So when I began today's round I figured I could win if I shot a 72, which would put me at 278. Since Bruce Devlin was five strokes behind me, he would have had to shoot 66 to win, and that's a pretty tough assignment on the final day of the Masters. I was going out there to shoot my 72, and if I had a chance to do better than that, well, of course, I would try it."

Someone asked Palmer if he had given any thought to Hogan's record, which had been set in 1953 when the tournament also had four days of weather as perfect as this week's had been.

"Yes," Arnold answered with delightful frankness. "When I started thinking about it was at the 12th hole, when I hit a tee shot that I thought was pretty good. I was 10 under par then, so I would need four birdies to tie the record. If I made that putt at 12 I would be one under par for the round, and I had 13 and 15 coming up, where I should be able to make birdies.

"But when I missed the putt at 12 and three-putted at 13 I kind of lost my incentive to tie the record. Then when I birdied 14 and 15, my hopes went up again. If I had sunk that putt at 16 it would have made a lot of difference. But I missed it."

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