Masters Insider: Talking with Tommy Aaron

Where to go: Jack Nicklaus plaque

The Golden Bear won six Masters during his illustrious career, and the 16th hole figured prominently in three of his victories.

In 1963, he sank a birdie putt to edge Tony Lema by one shot for his first green jacket. In 1975, he holed a 40-foot putt that helped him win a memorable shoot­out against Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller. And in 1986, he nearly holed his tee shot to set up a short birdie as he became the tournament’s oldest winner.

Nicklaus was honored in 1998 with a plaque affixed to a drinking fountain between the 16th and 17th holes. It reads in part:

“Jack Nicklaus elevated his game to meet golf’s challenges, including those at the Masters Tournament. The man and Augusta National Golf Club will be forever linked.”

Under the oak tree: Tommy Aaron

Tommy Aaron, 76, won the 1973 Masters. The Gaines­ville, Ga., native last competed at Augusta National in 2005. In 2000, at age 63, he set the record as the oldest player to make the cut, with scores of 72 and 74.

He will attend the Champions Dinner tonight and play in the Par-3 Contest on Wednesday.

Q: Do you think your record as oldest to make the cut will stand?

A: These young players play so much longer and they stay in such great physical condition, someone will probably beat that. Gary Player had it before.

In fact, when I finished, I said, “Gary Player is doing pushups and situps right now because he wants to be the oldest man” to make the cut.

Q: Tell us the story about losing your ball in Ike’s Tree on 17.

A: I hit a drive there, and it hit in top of the Eisenhower Pine and pollen went everywhere. And nobody moved. So I said, “That ball stayed in the tree.” The local caddie with us said they don’t stay in the tree. And I said, “That ball stayed in the tree.”

So we couldn’t find it. We looked around, and I go back and I play another under the lost ball rule. And the next day we’re walking by the tree and a ball drops out of the tree, and I know it’s my ball because it had a marking on it and it was a Pinnacle.

So I know it was my ball. Someone told Jack Nicklaus that story and he said, “I’m not sure I believe it.”

But I’ve got a witness, my caddie, Rhett Sinclair.

Q: You were involved in the scorecard incident with Roberto de Vicenzo, and when you won, Johnny Miller wrote down a wrong score for you?

A: That process works if it’s done right. I caught the error and I said, “Johnny, you remember I hit drive and 4-iron on the green and I two-putted for birdie.” It was too bad Roberto didn’t look at his card. He was just so upset about bogeying the last hole. I can just see it all over. He sat down with his head in his hands.

History lesson: Masters Club

One of the most exclusive clubs in golf is set to convene tonight at the Masters Club.

Open only to Masters winners and Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne, the Masters Club began in 1952 at the suggestion of Ben Hogan.

Tournament founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts were made honorary members, and chairmen of Augusta National since Roberts have been invited, too.

Defending champion Bub­ba Wat­son chose tonight’s menu, and he also is responsible for picking up the check.