Billy Casper's 1970 Masters win
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article first appeared in The Augusta Chronicle on April 14, 1970.
The caddy figured his last name all wrong - now he wants to change it to Casper.
And that would be just fine, for Billy Casper credits his caddy, Matthew Palmer, with playing a major part in his Masters Tournament Championship.
``Matthew is responsible for me being here,'' said Casper, who shot a 69 to beat Gene Littler by five strokes in an 18-hole playoff Monday.
``I used him to read the greens. The greens here are very subtle. Sometimes they don't break just the way you figure them to. If you misread them as much as an inch, you've missed the putt. ``Matthew has an exceptional talent for reading the greens.''
Palmer has caddied for Casper the past seven years, but Casper didn't go to him for advice until last year's tournament. Why?
``I'm just a hard-head, I guess,'' Casper grinned.
Casper, considered one of the top putters on the professional tour, had nine one-putt greens while taking only 12 putts on the front side and 15 on the back. The victory was worth $25,000, plus innumerable side benefits to Casper. Littler picked up $17,500. It was a scrambling type round which really was settled early when Casper picked up a four-stroke lead on the first four holes.
``I want to thank Gene for helping make it easier,'' Casper said in referring to Littler's bad start. His only anxious moments came when he stepped to the 10th tee leading by only three after having lost four straight shots to Gene ``The Machine.'' ``I knew I had to make a good swing,'' Casper said. ``Gene already had made a good shot. If I hadn't had a good swing, I could've gone into the water, made five and that three-shot lead would've been just one in a hurry.
``I hit a five-iron to eight feet and made it for the birdie. That was the key shot of the day although at two, I was fortunate to ba able to play the shot when I hooked my drive into the woods.'' He then drove his approach to 10 feet and sank it for a birdie while Littler three-putted from 20 feet for a bogey.
At 18, both reached the green in two. Casper two-putted from 30 feet and Littler ran in an 18-footer for a birdie. The playoff was necessitated when Littler shot a 70 to Casper's 71 Sunday and they tied at 279. Casper, who led the first round in 1968 and 1969, had 208 totals and one-stroke leads after three rounds the past two years.
Last year, he shot a 40 on the front side and although rallying for a 34 on the back, he tied George Knudson and Tom Weiskopf, one shot back of Georgie Archer. It was the 45th career victory for the one-time fat boy who was appearing in his 14th Masters. Casper, who trimmed down from 240 to 185 due to some allergy problems, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are the only players ever to have won more than a million dollars in their careers.
But it had been said the two-time U.S. Open champion (1959 and 1966) never could win the Masters. Although he had some problems early on the back nine, Casper went out like a true Masters winner Monday. And he really didn't play it conservative, a manner which has drawn him criticism in the past.
After a 320-yard drive at one, he wedged it within six feet and holed it for a birdie while Littler narrowly missed a 16-foot birdie putt. At two, Casper hooked his drive into the woods, almost where he was Sunday when he took a double bogey seven on eight. He was able to flit it out with a nine-iron, knock it on the back edge of the green and two-putt for his par.
Littler wasn't so fortunate. He appeared in near perfect position just in front of the right trap but dumped his wedge shot into the trap, blasted out and two-putted from 22 feet. Casper received a bad break at three when his tee shot hit the gallery and bounced dead right into the trees. However, he knocked it on the back edge of the green and rammed it in for a birdie while Littler went over the green and chipped it back to four feet for his par.
On four, both hit their shots to the fringe. Casper chipped to three feet for a par but Littler three-putted for a bogey. That put Littler four shots back and it stayed there until Casper rammed in a 10-footer for a three on No. 7. Littler, who took 36 putts during the day, missed twice from eight feet and once from 10 during that span.
Casper two-putted from 30 feet and Littler chipped from 40 feet to 20 inches for par at nine. The 10th was bad news for both, although Casper managed to pick up another shot despite bogeying.
A chip from behind the bunker was 25 feet short and Casper two-putted. Littler's tee shot went into the woods, his escape attempt fell next to a tree. He had to chip out, then hit on the green and two-putted from 25 feet. Casper went seven ahead of the little man when he made a 14-footer for a birdie at 11.
However, that's when the trouble started. Casper's tee shot went over against the left bank and fell down against a pine cone, requiring him to aim right of the pin. He pitched to 12 feet and missed the putt by two feet. Littler got his par. A bad drive forced Casper to lay up and he two-putted for a par while Littler was going for it and getting down for the bird.
At 14, they hooked their tee shots into the woods with Casper being unable to get to the green in two and winding up with another bogey.
Both went for 15 in two, following tremendous drives which landed right in the middle of the fairway. Casper wound up in the right trap, blasted out 18 feet past the pin and two-putted for the par. Littler knocked his three-iron on and had to settle for the bird when his eagle putt was left barely short.
This cut Casper's lead to three strokes but he then came up with the two birds that sealed it.