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On the final day of the Masters a chunky and relaxed man named Douglas Michael Ford stood in the 15th fairway of the Augusta National course, squinted at the distant green and sluggish creek protecting it and called for the club strong enough to carry all the way, the three-wood. His Negro caddie, who felt he had almost as much at stake, his tip, balked. By the electric word of mouth of tournament golf, news had just reached Doug Ford and his caddie that, behind them on the course, Sam Snead, the tournament leader, was busy bogeying the 10th and 11th holes.
"Use your four-iron," his caddie pleaded in some panic. "Gonna cost me $100 if you go in the water."
"I'm no good at playing safe," Doug Ford snapped. And with that, after the typically brief address he allows himself, Ford swung his spoon back in his oddly flat arc and sent the ball screaming toward the pond. It sailed barely over and kicked to the edge of the green; with two putts he was down for a birdie 4.
That was the way Ford played Augusta, and that—as it turned out—was how the 1957 Masters was won. The day before, while the big crowd was following Snead, Ford tried the same shot and landed in the muck at the edge of the water. He stripped off his shoes, rolled up his pants to the knees, waded in and blasted on his way in a spray of Georgia creek water.
But he was saving his most memorable shot for the last day and the 18th hole. Coming up to the 18th he needed a par 4 to finish with a dazzling 67. But his approach shot, a mis-hit seven-iron, landed in a sand trap short of the green and half buried itself. So Ford scrambled into the trap on the double, without drawing a deep breath flailed at it—and watched it plop right into the cup for a 66. It was the best final-round score in the 21-year history of the Masters. It gave Ford 283 for the tournament and what proved to be a three-stroke margin over Sammy Snead. With some justification he tossed his sand wedge two dozen feet in the air.
Ford is no stylist of golf. He gallops up to his shots, takes a quick look and fires. He goes around the course in Mach One. But he is probably the best man on the circuit at getting down in two putts. At Augusta he played the greens like the pool shark he used to be, and was never far off the tournament pack with tidy daily performances of 72-73-72 and ultimately, of course, the 66. Up to now, at 34, Ford's best triumph was his 1955 PGA victory at Meadowbrook. Hereafter the Mahopac, N.Y. pro can be known as the man who saved the 1957 Masters from what otherwise would have been galling inconclusiveness.
At the end of the third round, after he had posted a bogey-littered 74, Sam Snead confronted the scoreboard in some surprise. "You mean to tell me I shot a 74 and am still leading this man's tournament?" He whistled. "Man, there must be some pea-picking poor golfers in that field out there!"
As a matter of fact, at that moment, there were. Incredibly gone from the tournament were Ben Hogan, Cary Middlecoff, Mike Souchak and a dozen other stars of tournament competition—while still in contention were such venerable figures as Henry Cotton, 50, Henry Picard, 49, and Byron Nelson, 45. The final round of the Masters this year also included 1) a nightclub crooner who plays only to get out in the sun, 2) a dentist from Cucamonga, Calif. and 3) a number of part-time businessmen golfers who haven't fired a golf shot in hope or anger in 20 years.
What had happened was that the tournament committee changed the rules this year to provide for only 40 players in the last two days—the first cut of any kind in Masters history, and drastically, disastrously too far down. The idea was not to cut out the Hogans and the Souchaks but the museum pieces—who proved, on the contrary, to be hardier than some of the youngsters. "We are just as anxious as ever to have the older champions 'come to the party,' although some of them may no longer be serious contenders," tactfully explained Tournament Chairman Cliff Roberts in announcing the innovation last February. "We know that many players...feel obligated to play out the full 72 holes even though they may not be scoring well. The new regulation automatically takes care of this particular problem." It surely did. But it created a locker-room eruption that rocked not only the tournament but all golf.
Cary Middlecoff, for instance, walked seething off the green after he had holed his 152nd shot Friday, stalked into the bar and demanded a triple Scotch which disappeared faster than Doug Ford's last trap shot. This was followed by the disappearance of Middlecoff himself, who did not even slow down on his way out of town to attend the traditional dinner thrown for former champions by last year's champion, a dinner livelier than ever this year judging by the sounds of angry voices drifting out of the club room and through the magnolia leaves.