SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
April 17, 1972
In winning his fourth Masters, Jack Nicklaus had only two problems—Jack Nicklaus and an annoying infestation of blotchy weed
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April 17, 1972

Poa Jack Beats Himself

In winning his fourth Masters, Jack Nicklaus had only two problems—Jack Nicklaus and an annoying infestation of blotchy weed

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It was an old-fashioned Masters, actually, including as it did the Poa annua, some wind, some chilly weather, a low round by Sam Snead, a hole in one by Charles Coody on Billy Joe Patton's 6th hole, the high scores, a variety of double bogeys and a few triple bogeys.

Constantly the big leader boards argued with one's intellect, especially on the first day, the most exciting of all: Snead, a 59-year-old man with a putting style that looks as if he's bending over to tie his shoe, had a 69. Then Coody with his hole in one at the 6th to put him four under par. So on the next hole he takes four shots—in the same bunker. Finally, Nicklaus, looking like the player he is. His eagle 3 at the 15th took command.

From this point on the only question that remained was whether Nicklaus would whip himself. Slowly, the Poa annua would take everybody out of it, forcing three-putt greens, making recovery chips and pitches next to impossible. Nicklaus succeeded because just enough of his game held together to conquer his mind.

His driving was good, but his irons were unsettling, and his recovery shots were pretty awful. What kept him on top was his attitude, his ability to smile at his own mistakes, his refusal to become demoralized by the Poa annua and the short putts he missed.

"Trying to play safe is the worst thing in the world," Nicklaus said. "I don't think I would have looked so bad there at the last if I'd been forced to throw the ball at the hole. When you start playing safe...."

Jack admitted he had become a bit testy over the constant badgering he got about the Grand Slam, and the fact that his legs were never working right on his iron shots.

"You come here to savor the Masters," he said. "It stands alone. I don't think about winning the Masters as part of the Slam. You want to win the Masters because of what it means to the game; what Bob Jones meant."

He never truthfully worked out the problem with the legs. There was wind and when there's wind you don't use the legs as much; you swing more stiffly, occasionally eliminating the full follow-through. Each night Jack practiced until almost dark, testing.

"I've played better here and didn't win, but the course changes and the field changes," he said.

One change in this year's field was that it included Lee Trevino, who became a part of the proceedings even though he played golf like one of the aging members on the tour. He had not been to Augusta in two years and he had said a lot of things about the place. Clifford Roberts, chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, cooled him, delightfully. After his third round, Trevino went to the press building and did his usual comic routine, but as he was leaving Roberts approached. Trevino stopped for a radio interview. Roberts stood by. It seemed obvious that he was waiting for Lee, and it seemed obvious that Lee was taking his own sweet time.

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