AUGUSTA – There have been countless magical moments in Masters history, but there have been some notable collapses that are just as stunning in defeat. Dame fortune will smile on some competitor today and will likely give the back of its hand to another.

When Arnold Palmer birdied the final two holes in 1960 to defeat Ken Venturi by a stroke, it was the second time Venturi had lost the tournament to the swashbuckling Palmer who seemed to have a death grip on the championship for a half-dozen years as network television was anointing him the king of golf.

Then in 1961, with the likelihood of back-to-back titles, Arnold lost concentration on the 18th hole with a one-stroke lead and gift wrapped the Green Jacket to Gary Player.

Had he landed his approach shot on the green, instead of a greenside bunker, and two putted for victory, he could have been the first three-peat winner at Augusta. Arnold was known for come-from-behind charges after his miraculous U. S. Open victory at Cherry Hills in Denver two months later, but he also gave away a few more majors that would have added gloss to his collection of seven.

At Oakmont in 1962, he three putted eleven times to lose the U. S. Open to Jack Nicklaus in a playoff, but nothing could have torn his heart out more than when in 1966 at Olympic in San Francisco, he uncharacteristically choked. He had a seven stroke lead with nine holes to play in the Open and barely got into an 18-hole playoff with Billy Casper, which Casper would win.

No multiple Masters champion has ever been the beneficiary of the other fellow’s mistakes as it was with Nick Faldo, winner of three Masters titles: 1989, 1990 and 1996. In 1989, on the first playoff hole, No. 10, Scott Hoch three putted—missing one of two feet to lose and fade from the golfing scene. Had Hoch’s initial putt wound up short of the hole, he would not have had to putt downhill on the treacherous green.

A year later, Ray Floyd in un-Ray-Floyd-like fashion three putted the 17th green to allow Faldo to get into a playoff, which ended at No. 11, the second playoff hole, when Floyd hit his approach shot into the pond to give Faldo a second Masters title.

Long time veterans who had followed Floyd on tour, were shocked that Floyd would, with the championship on the line, stumble instead of grabbing the tournament by the throat as he was accustomed to doing.

The following year at a pre-tournament press conference, Floyd emphatically said, “I know the record book shows that he won but I GAVE him the golf tournament.”

The choke of all time had to be when Faldo won in 1996. He began the final round six strokes behind third round leader Greg Norman who had the game for Augusta but never could pull off victory.

An insightful scene took place at the 17th hole on Saturday, which is the essence of the story of the tournament. With a birdie/par finish, Faldo knew he would be paired with Norman on Sunday. That became the critical putt of the tournament.

He spent considerable time with the putt, surveying the putt from all angles. When the ball went into the hole, he knew that with par on the 18th, he would get the pairing he wanted which would suddenly tilt the championship in his direction.

There was some history to the inside story. At St. Andrews in the third round of the 1990 British Open at St. Andrews, Norman and Faldo were paired. Norman with 66-66 the first two rounds was tied with Faldo who had posted 67-65. Faldo destroyed Norman with a 67 while Greg got around in 76.

I remember after the third round on Masters Saturday, 1996, the introspective Peter Doebroeiner of the Manchester Guardian, saying to Norman, “Gregor, even you can’t screw this one up.” It was, however, a repeat of the St. Andrews dustup.

Faldo coasted home with a 67 while Norman was out of sorts from the beginning, finishing with 78, eleven strokes more than Faldo. Had Norman not been paired with Faldo, it likely would have been different.

When play ended, Norman went over to give Faldo a congratulatory hug. Faldo hugged him back or was the Englishman administering the Heimlich maneuver?

Even Jack Nicklaus, who never endured a collapse — he was choke free — had to have help a few times in his career, none more auspicious than in 1980 when he won his record sixth Masters at age 46. He got help from Seve Ballesteros who hit his approach on No. 15 into the water to give Nicklaus the advantage and from Norman who sent his approach on No. 18 wide right. A par would have forced a playoff with Nicklaus. The Augusta stage is now set for ecstasy and /or agony.

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