Yet this was by no means as cut-and-dried a victory as it may have sounded when you listened to Palmer sitting in the clubhouse with his winning 276—the second best score ever shot at the Masters—and chatting about breaking records. The two men who finished second, Jack Nicklaus and Dave Marr, had both pressed him before eventually winding up six strokes back.
There was a time back at the 10th hole when Palmer had to give some very careful thought to Marr, who was his playing partner this day. Marr had started six strokes behind, but was playing some extraordinary golf. He was sinking putts from everywhere but under water, and he turned the first nine in three-under-par 33 to Palmer's 35. When Palmer three-putted the 10th for a bogey the two men were separated by a mere three strokes, and three strokes at Augusta can vanish as fast as a politician's promise. As Marr strode briskly down the fairway of the 11th hole in pursuit of a drive he had hooked into the rough, his pretty blonde wife, Susan, was mentally measuring him for the green jacket of a Masters champion. But moments later Marr missed a three-foot putt for his par on 11, probably the first makable putt he failed to sink in the tournament. And moments after that he hit a poor iron off the 12th tee that plopped into the pond in front of the green, skipped up on the bank momentarily and then fell back into the water. This caused him to take his second bogey in a row. The three-stroke difference was now five, and Susan Marr decided Dave doesn't really look good in green anyway.
Jack Nicklaus, on the other hand, had come alive at last. He had been putting atrociously all week, but he was now playing the kind of muscular golf that can make him seem a good deal larger than human. At the 13th, where a lot of the best pros are unable to reach the green in two, he used a driver and a five-iron, then rammed in a two-foot putt for an eagle. At the 15th, which measures 520 yards, he hit an easy seven-iron for his second, and it carried over the green. He still got his birdie, and now the nine shots by which he had trailed Palmer at the beginning of the day were down to four. At the 16th, a good 200 yards from the back tee, he hit a massive seven-iron 12 feet from the hole. "I thought I had a chance if I could make the putt," he said. When it missed, Jack sank to his knees, his biggest show of emotion of the week.
The kind of slugging Nicklaus was doing can shorten a golf course by five or six strokes, and he was more than justified in his belief, which he was to mention later, that he could have reduced his five-under-par 67 by at least five additional strokes if he had only been able to sink some short putts. As it was, he never got another birdie after the 15th.
By the time Palmer reached the 18th tee he knew he was the 1964 Masters champion, and he also knew that Dave Marr needed a birdie to tie Nicklaus for second. "What can I do to help you?" he asked Marr.
"Shoot a 12," Marr cracked. Marr, however, did his own work on this hole when he sank a downhill 30-foot putt for the birdie he needed to tie Nicklaus for runner-up. The putt was worth roughly $2,000 to him, the difference between third-place money and the $10,100 he and Nicklaus each received for second. An hour earlier, when Susan Marr realized her husband had relinquished second place to Nicklaus, she sighed as she thought about the size of the runner-up purse, usually in the neighborhood of $12,000. "We could have made a payment on a house for that," said this mother of two, whose home is an apartment in New Rochelle, N.Y. Among those strung out behind Marr and Nicklaus were Devlin at 284 and Player at 286. Lema and Hogan were at 287, and Chi Chi could be found at 290. Davis Love made $850 for finishing 34th, and Amateur Billy Joe got nothing but fun out of ending up 37th. Such is the fate of some Masters leaders.
Palmer regarded his fourth Masters title as about the greatest achievement of his golfing career. "I played here as I would like to be able to play in every tournament," he said. "Of course, I wish I'd done a lot of things I didn't do—you always feel that way even when you win—but I got a lot of satisfaction out of the way I played. It seems to me I waste a couple of shots every week I play—careless shots and careless putts. It seems to be the way I am. This week I decided not to be careless."
"Did you waste any shots here?" someone asked. "Frankly, no," he said. "I hit some shots that were not too good, but they weren't careless shots.
"You know," he went on, "I started this year unhappy about some of the things I had done last year. I won some tournaments, but I didn't win a major championship. One thing I was very definite about in my mind when I started the year was that I would try my best to win at least one major championship if I did nothing else.
"I can't say I was aiming particularly at the Masters, because if you go around saying you are aiming at a particular tournament and then you don't qualify, what are you going to say? If I aim at a tournament and don't win it, then I just go on and aim at the next one. So it would be ridiculous to say that I began by aiming just at the Masters, although that's the one I wanted first.