Few challenge 18-hole record set by Nick Price
Saturday is moving day at the Masters. Expect plenty of birdies and eagles as players go all out to get in position to win a green jacket Sunday.
Low scores and excitement have been synonymous with the Masters for years, but only 15 players have shot 64 or better in competition.
The most recent player to do so is Jordan Spieth. The Texan was 8-under through 14 holes in his opening round last year, but he made a bogey at the par-5 15th and settled for 64.
“It’s one of the better rounds I’ve ever played,” said Spieth, who would match the tournament’s 72-hole scoring record in his victory.
Nick Price and Greg Norman share the Augusta National course record of 9-under 63. Thirty years ago, Price set the record using a wooden driver and laying up on all the par-5 holes. His birdie putt on the 18th hole rimmed the cup, and he had to settle for 63.
“They were asking what happened on that 18th hole, and I came up with this line,” Price said: “I think Bobby Jones’ hand came up and popped it out the hole. And said, ‘That’s enough.’”
Price was an unlikely candidate to set the record at Augusta National because he was not a long hitter.
He barely made the cut in 1986, then promptly bogeyed the first hole. From then on, Price said, he “probably had the best 17 holes of putting I’ve ever had.”
Price said his score could have been even lower.
“What I suppose I remember the best was walking up the 14th hole, and I think at this stage I was 7-under, and saying to my caddie, ‘Do you know what the course record is?’ And he nodded at me and said, ‘Yeah,’” Price said. “And I said ‘Let’s do it.’ I birdied 15 and 16. I had a lip-out on 18 but had a really good putt that I ran over the top edge on 17. It could have been just about anything.”
Norman matched Price’s record in the first round of 1996.
He started off slowly with pars on his first six holes. Then he birdied Nos. 7-9 to make the turn in 33. The Great White Shark then turned it up a notch.
“It was just indicative of my style of play,” Norman said. “I loved to be aggressive when I felt I was on.”
On the final nine, he birdied Nos. 12-15. He added another at the 17th and had his final birdie at the 18th to match Price’s score.
Despite technological advances in golf clubs and balls in the two decades since Norman’s 63, only three players have threatened to match or better the record: Spieth, Bo Van Pelt (2012) and Jason Day (2011).
Price laid up on all four of the par-5s, but he used his pinpoint iron play to make 10 birdies.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is that I did it with a wooden driver,” Price said. “That’s not to take anything away from Greg’s 63, but I think he shot his in ’96, 10 years later, so technology in drivers had changed considerably. I’d like to think there would be an asterisk on mine for using medieval clubs.”
Low scores have not always translated into a green jacket. Only Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Spieth went on to win.
Nicklaus fired his 64 in the third round on his way to a record-setting victory in 1965. Player’s 64 came in the final round of his 1978 win.
“The big thing is I would trade that round for a green jacket in a heartbeat,” Price said. “It’s always nice to have a course record at a very nice golf course and a major championship, but in hindsight it’s not something that’s going to enhance my career. I still look at it as a tongue-in-cheek, it was an achievement, but certainly not like winning it.”
THE FIRST 64
How good was Lloyd Mangrum’s 64 in the opening round in 1940?
It bettered by two shots the lowest score recorded in competition at Augusta National, and it took 25 years for anyone to match it.
Mangrum made four birdies to make the turn in 32 in wet conditions, but he suffered his lone bogey at the 10th. He bounced back with birdies at Nos. 12, 13, 15, 17 and 18, the latter a 25-footer.
Golf writer O.B. Keeler described Mangrum’s round, and his finish of 3-3-3, as “the hottest round ever played in big league competition.”
The Course Changes