Waves of Americans seemed ready to give him a serious run only to slip back while trying to scale Augusta's slick hills. John Daly, the Pheenom Who Would Not Die, eagled the second hole, birdied the sixth and looked for a while as if he might leave spike marks on Langer's back, only to fall into a distant tie for third place, six shots off the pace. Lanny Wadkins, fortified by the previous night's barbecued ribs, which he had flown in from the Rib King in Cincinnati, pulled to within three strokes with a birdie at 13, only to fall off the bone and into the pack in third. Tom Lehman, a 34-year-old Masters rookie, birdied four of the first five holes but never another. He, too, ended up in third.
No, it was left to Beck and Forsman, a lanky, emotional sort who had not made the cut in three previous Masters, perhaps because he mentally overclubs the tournament. He is the kind of man who could write a treatise on the significance of a divot. "Golf is so tough," Forsman said Saturday night. "A friend once told me, 'Sometimes you're bleeding, sometimes you're hemorrhaging, sometimes you're painting the Mona Lisa.' " Time to triple the therapy.
Meanwhile, Langer had his own remedy. Headlong, he flung himself into Amen Corner. At the flammable par-4 11th hole, he aimed his second shot at the pin when everybody else was bailing out right, away from the water. He wound up in a place nobody had been all week, on the fringe left of the hole, hard between the pin and the pond and peril. As he prepared his easy chip, he looked across to the 12th and saw a wonderful sight: Forsman, arm perpendicular to his body, dropping a golf ball.
Playing just ahead of Langer and Beck, Forsman was in the process of engraving his name on that long list of Sunday golfers who have left their Masters hopes at the bottom of the creek in front of the meanest little par-3 in the world. That was definitely not supposed to happen. Forsman had thought long and hard about how to play the 12th. He had gone to a Blockbuster Video and rented Jack Nicklaus Shows You the Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf. It includes a clip of Sandy Lyle's memorable disaster on 12 in 1988. Not a smart move, like renting Airport before a flight to Peoria.
Trying to play safe, Forsman pushed a skittish little seven-iron weakly into the creek, walked 65 yards forward, dropped a ball, spun that one off the Memorial Fred Couples Bank and back into the water, dropped another ball and, finally, made your basic Masters-killing seven. In 10 minutes he went from eight under and one behind to three under and five behind. He had painted whiskers on the Mona Lisa.
"That's what makes Augusta," Forsman said ruefully afterward. "It would have been nice to go around Amen Corner and say, 'Amen,' instead of, 'Oh, hell.' "
That left only Langer, a big-time born-again Christian, and Beck, a devout Catholic. Beck considered the cloth as a youth. Langer said last week that he would consider becoming a missionary someday. If any two guys were ready for Amen Corner, these two were.
Three days before, on Thursday, the the 1993 Masters sure hadn't looked as if it would come down to Langer versus Beck. In fact, it hadn't even looked like 1993. It looked like 1964. But then, it always does in Augusta. Look around. A ham sandwich is still $1, you can still get a buzzcut in the club barbershop, and the names on the leader board still read Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Floyd. It's true. Arnold Palmer started the tournament birdie-birdie-birdie to go three under and forge ahead into the early lead.
Seeing Palmer's name high atop the old Wrigley Field-style scoreboards at Augusta stirred something in Nicklaus. "I couldn't let him be low senior," he said, so off went the longtime star of Jack the Bear, shooting a five-under 67 to lead the tournament with four others at the end of the opening day. Out on the course Nicklaus looked as if he'd broken into Couples's closet. He was a vision: 15 pounds thinner, two shades tanner and 10 years younger than in his previous incarnation at Augusta. Come to think of it, nobody's clock seemed to be working. Gary Player completed the first round 3-3-3 to shoot 71, and Raymond Floyd shot a 68 to lurk one behind Nicklaus. So, it was Arnie, age 63, Player, 57, Nicklaus, 53, and Floyd, the baby, at 50. The Ben-Gay Boys.
But those Disney movies do eventually end, and Friday eventually comes to Augusta. At the close of the day, time had clocked back in. Nicklaus had shot a 75, Player had shot a 76, and Palmer had blown the cut. Senior Day was over. Start the tournament.