"At 16, I hit my tee shot almost exactly where I wanted. I was a bit surprised that the ball didn't spin more to the left when it hit the green. If it had, it would have run down the slope toward the hole, maybe 12 or 15 feet away. Instead it bounced up onto the knob and stopped, leaving a long, difficult putt. I played a 10-foot break on my first putt, and hit it five feet past the hole. My second putt was solid but it went over the left lip and I had a bogey 4. All in all, a four there did not seem disastrous. I went to 17 knowing I still held the lead. I didn't feel tight."
Watson missed a 10-foot birdie putt on 17 that again would have brought him within a shot of Sneed, and he would par in to finish at eight under, 280. Zoeller, who had crept into contention with birdies at 13 and 15, birdied 17 from 14 feet and now marched happily up 18 tied with Watson. Sneed goes on:
"My tee shot at 17 was perfect, downwind 290 yards in the center of the fairway, but my second shot remains a mystery to me. I knew I had 104 yards to clear the bunker in front of the green. The pin was in the back, so I figured 120 yards to the hole. Just as I prepared to hit, the wind gusted very hard, from the left and behind me. I attempted a high soft shot and when the ball left the club I couldn't have been more pleased. It started on line, faded slightly toward the hole and looked close. While it was still in the air, a gust of wind actually knocked the ball down and slightly left. But the green, hard and fast, didn't hold the shot and the ball slid over the ridge onto the back fringe. My first putt was excellent, coming up over the rise and slipping no more than three feet past the hole. I thought my second putt would break left, not enough to give away the hole, but I must have pushed it slightly, because it went over the right edge of the cup. Another bogey."
From the comforting cushion of three strokes, Sneed had dissipated his lead. Having to make par on the final hole to win is a world removed from even a two-stroke edge, and needing that par on the heels of two damaging bogeys added to the pressure of the task. There was no question that Sneed was playing tentatively.
"As I prepared to hit my tee shot at 18, a three-wood to be short of the bunkers, a young kid snapped his camera and I was forced to step away. I took my time, then drove perfectly into the left center of the fairway. That gave me a big lift. I had been terribly distracted when I was ready to play, but had collected myself.
"A four would win. I had 160 yards to the hole, a solid seven-iron, and I wanted the ball on the right side of the green, either pin-high or below the cup. This was the poorest shot I hit on the closing stretch. My body came up a bit quickly at impact and I hit it slightly to the right. Instead of a draw, the ball flew dead straight and took a huge bounce to the right, coming to rest on the edge of the right bunker.
"I called Joe Black, a tournament official, over to look at my ball. It appeared to be half in and half out of the bunker, and a cigarette butt lay in the sand almost touching it. I wanted to remove the butt with an official watching in case the ball moved and I had to replace it. Also, I wanted to know if he thought the ball was in or out of the bunker. Black determined it was out of the bunker, but even then I was afraid to ground my club, for fear of moving the ball. This only added to the difficulty of the pitch shot.
"I hit what I thought was a pretty decent shot. The ball came up about six feet below the hole."
Perhaps he had let up on the last holes, after struggling through the treacherous stretch of Amen Corner. Perhaps he had loosened his grip before he had the tournament fully in his grasp. Perhaps he was thinking about winning when there still was too much golf course to be played. Whatever had gone wrong, the results could be read on Sneed's face. Serenity had faded. He had just hit a marvelous shot under the most testing of circumstances, yet there was no relief in his expression, only tautness and apprehension at the six-foot putt that remained.
"I read a break to the right and decided to play the ball at the left center of the hole. I don't know if I pulled it, or if it jumped slightly left on the way. All I know is that I thought the ball was going in, and it hung there, incredibly, on the left lip with a quarter of the ball over the hole."