Since the second Masters in 1935, the annual tournament in Augusta has produced an abundance of fabulous finishes, and last Sunday at the 1960 Masters Tournament Arnold Palmer gave a glimpse of another melodramatic finish to add to the scorecard.
Ken Venturi got off to a fast start with 3-under-par 33 on the front nine, while Palmer shot even-par on the front and was two shots behind Ken Venturi, paired with Dow Finsterwald. Then Arnold Palmer leads after each round, posting a first round 67 that put him six strokes ahead of Venturi. Two rounds later, Palmer held the lead, however Venturi had narrowed the gap to one stroke.
As every old Masters pro knows, the 13th and 15th are the most likely holes for picking up strokes on par on the severe back nine of the Augusta National. These two par-5s, 475 and 520 yards respectively, are tough but can be reached in two shots, especially by a hard-hitting Arnold Palmer. On the fourth and final round, the 17th tee of the 24th Masters, Palmer needed to birdie on either one to draw even with Venturi and Finsterwald, who were playing some four holes ahead of him- steadily marching par down the stretch in a tense head-to-head battle. Venturi struggled to 1-over-par 37, but Dow missed the tough eight-foot sidehiller. Venturi finished with 70, the best round of the day to that point. Reporters gathered around to interview who they thought was the winner, with Venturi saying “I haven’t won it yet”.
Palmer didn’t get his birdie on the 13th, and he carried the creek before the green with his second shot, a three-wood, but the ball bounded over the green into a trap and it took three to get him down. He also failed to birdie on the 15th when his drive down the left side of the fairway left him hindered by a tall pine tree, and he was forced to play an intentional hook with his one-iron that didn’t come off. Palmer’s best chance to pick up that all-important birdie were now behind him and holes were running out fast.
Known for his stamina, courage, and superb technique, he was in a tight spot and he proceeded to give a demonstration of those qualities that brought gasps of awe and admiration; many times his finish will be recounted in the future.
On the 17th, Palmer parlayed an indifferent approach that finished about 30 feet from the pin, but he rolled that putt in for a birdie much to the cheers of ‘Arnie’s Army’. Palmer’s wife, Winnie, couldn’t bear to watch, saying she heard it and it sounded like the best putt of the tournament. But it gets even better.
On the final hole, Palmer hit a solid drive and was left with a 6-iron to the green. He hit it six feet to the left of the pin, then calmly rolled in the birdie putt for his second Masters win in three years.
Venturi was crushed, but was gracious in defeat telling reporters “I didn’t give it away, Arnold won it because he played great golf.”
The Masters being Arnold Palmer’s fifth win of the year, he went on to win the U.S. Open after trailing by seven shots into the final round. In all, Palmer won eight times in 1960 and had his most successful season as a pro.