Tommy Aaron, 1973: Masters win a 'dream come true'
My win in the 1973 Masters Tournament came as quite a surprise.
My wife Jimmye had been in the hospital early in the year, had surgery and developed complications and had two or three subsequent surgeries; she was in the hospital for over a month. So I only played in two or three West Coast tournaments and then drove up to Greensboro to play the week before the Masters and played so-so and finished in the middle of the field.
When I drove to Augusta I wasn't expecting anything. I was just glad that Jimmye was OK. She was at home resting - the only Masters she's ever missed - so I was there on my own, renting a condo and playing golf.
I didn't do much of anything in the practice rounds. But Thursday as I was warming up, as so often happens, I starting feeling my swing. I shot 68 and all of a sudden was leading the Masters after the first round.
I struggled in the middle rounds, shooting 73-74, but was still in it, only four behind Peter Oosterhuis. And then I was on the range getting ready for the final round and my swing got back some of the fluidness and freedom I had in the first round. I hit everything right toward the target and birdied 1, 2 and 3. I thought, `Heck, I might be back in the tournament.'
When I birdied 8 and went out in 32 it put me a position where, boy, if I had ever had a chance to win the Masters, it could happen with a good back nine. Well, I bogeyed 10 with a three-putt and made bogey on 11 after a no-good iron shot and pretty indifferent chip. But I came back with a birdie at 13 and a good up and down birdie from behind the green on 15. I parred in and just waited to see if J.C. Snead could catch me. J.C. was one stroke behind and made a great par on 17 and then two-putted 18 from 30 feet.
Many people remembered my name at the Masters for what happened in 1968 when Roberto de Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard and Bob Goalby won. I played with Roberto and I found the mistake I made on his card. I finished in the top 10 and was always meticulous in checking my card - I probably did it six to eight times.
At the time there was an open table behind the 18th green where you turned in your card. I looked at the leader board and noticed Roberto's score was different than what he turned in. I put down a 4 for him on 17 and he made a 3. I asked where Roberto was and an official said he's been in the press room for five minutes. Well, we had to call him because he signed an incorrect card and finished one behind Goalby.
My gosh, how irresponsible can a guy be to be right there to win the tournament and not check his card. That was very unprofessional. He just stormed away. That Roberto never even looked at the card was very unfortunate.
Making scorecard mistakes happens quite often. After I finished my final round in 1973, I noticed that my playing partner, Johnny Miller, had written down a 5 for me on 13 and I made a 4. I pointed it out to Johnny and just changed and initialed it before turning the card in.
Winning the Masters for me was a dream come true. From the time I started playing in Gainesville, Ga., northeast of Atlanta, I thought the Masters was the only golf tournament in the world. The only tournaments I ever heard about were the Masters and U.S. Open. The only PGA Tour events I won were the 1970 Atlanta Classic and the Masters, so those wins are very special to a Georgian.