The greatest golfer of all time squatted down to study his line. There wasn't a tougher putt to judge on the course – forty feet, uphill, along a pronounced ridge. Standing on the tee just 160 yards behind him, his two keenest rivals watched intently. They had been chasing him, not only through the dramatic twists and turns of this final round, but their entire lives, each dreaming of the day they would eclipse this man on the game’s most exalted stage. The consequences of what happened next altered the careers of all three men and the game of golf.
The 1975 Masters Tournament always seemed destined for the record books. A veritable Hall of Fame list of competitors had gathered that spring in Augusta, Georgia, for the game’s most famous event, including Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, Billy Casper, and Sam Snead. The lead-up had been dominated by Lee Elder, the first black golfer ever invited to the exclusive club’s tourney. But by the weekend, the tournament turned into a showdown of the period’s three heavyweights: Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, and Tom Weiskopf. Never before had golf’s top-three players of the moment summoned the best golf of their lives in the same major championship. Their back-and-forth battle would rivet the sporting world and dramatically culminate in one of the greatest finishes in golf history.
In The Magnificent Masters, Gil Capps, a twenty-two-year veteran of the golf industry with NBC Sports and Golf Channel, brings to life the 39th Masters Tournament thirty-nine years after its playing. Based on exhaustive research and exclusive interviews with the three principals, The Magnificent Masters recaptures hole-by-hole the thrilling drama of this singular event during golf’s golden era, from the media-crazed build-up and intertwined careers of the three combatants to the tournament's final dramatic putts that would change the Masters and the game of golf forever.
In 1975, Jack Nicklaus was already considered the greatest golfer of all-time. Winner of 12 professional majors and four Masters, Nicklaus was now 35 years old and in the prime of his career. But the Golden Bear was coming off a disappointing year in the majors, and his position atop the world of golf was under serious threat. Could he prove to the sports world – and himself – that he was still the king of the links?
Johnny Miller was the hotshot in the mid-1970s. Number-one on the money list, Miller was the game’s hottest property with 11 Tour wins in the previous 15 months. Straddling a line between confident and cocky, Miller, with his blonde locks and svelte figure, graced everything from the cover of Newsweek to the display racks of sport coats at Sears. The only thing he didn’t have yet was the green jacket Nicklaus had already won four times.
Tom Weiskopf was the tortured soul. A three-time Masters runner-up, Weiskopf was considered the most talented player in golf, but with few major results to back it up in the eyes of pundits. A perfectionist who let bad shots and bad breaks build into frustrations on and off the course, he had won the week before and was desperate to forge ahead out of the shadow of his hero Nicklaus and win the tournament he so loved.