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Onward to the 14th. Stadler drove into the trees on the right of the fairway, but as in so many similar situations earlier in the week, he was able to punch out and up to the back of the green. Stadler punched out of a few forests during the tournament, always getting good results. And he blasted out of most of the bunkers he found and got good results, such as holing out for a birdie at the 10th on Saturday, the day he began to move away from Curtis Strange, who had been tied for the lead with him after 36 holes. At the 14th on Sunday, however, his putter started to fail him. He three-putted. Another bogey.
Stadler had a chance for a birdie at the 15th after getting safely over the water and after hitting a bunker shot that should have given him better position than the slick green gave him. But once again, the putt eased by the cup.
Finally, then, at the par-3 16th hole last week's Masters erupted with all of the three-cornered drama, suspense and insanity for which the tournament is famed. Pohl was in the scorer's tent at four-under when Pate put a gorgeous six-iron close enough to the flag to get himself to three-under, after which Stadler put himself into a bunker from which it would be next to impossible to save par.
Pate made the birdie putt, and although Stadler hit a beautiful sand shot, the slope of the green took his ball down the hill and away from the cup. Birdie-bogey, two-shot swing. Stadler five-under, Pohl four, Pate three, two holes to play. Anything could happen—and did.
Pate did not birdie either of the last two holes and, therefore, although he had played as stylishly in the Masters as he had in winning the Tournament Players Championship last month, he could not catch Pohl, much less Stadler. Only Stadler could catch Pohl by going backward, and that was what he did on 18.
The smart play, especially with a one-stroke lead in the Masters, on Augusta's 18th hole, a par-4 with bunkers on the left and trees on the right, is to keep the lumber out of your hand on the tee. Hit a long iron short of the sand, don't flirt with danger. Not Stadler, who is as brave a fellow as he is a talented shotmaker. He took out the old driver and slapped the ball perfectly into the heart of the fairway with a little left-to-right control. Five-iron to the green. He put a good swing on the five-iron as well and got it to the upper ledge of the green, a green where men had been having big trouble all week.
Stadler wasn't worried about the 30-foot putt on 18. He had two putts to win a title, which had started belonging to him on Saturday when he rolled in birdies on the last three greens. Those putts had stretched from his ball mark to Macon. But just when he didn't need to do it, Stadler put a stroke on the ball that was uglier than his golf bag back in 1979 when it advertised Taylor's Prime Steaks, the restaurant in Los Angeles where he had met his wife. He left the putt six feet short of the hole.
If Pohl wasn't putting on his golf glove then, he should have been. Stadler's putt looked like a coughing spell. His par putt to win in regulation with an even-par 72 and total of 283 came about as close to going in the hole as a walrus would to fitting in Stadler's locker. It didn't even scare the cup.
When the frantic hordes went galloping over to the 10th hole to watch the playoff, Stadler had a chance to see Sue on his way to the tee. She was as calming as she had been the night before when they had eaten leftovers for dinner, as calming as she had been Sunday morning when they took their 2-year-old son, Kevin, on an Easter egg hunt.
Stadler looked at her as if to say, "What do you have to do to win this thing?" She only smiled and said, "Come on, babe, there are only two of you now—you can do it."