Price Is Right (a Record 63), but Norman Leads by a Shot
A Masters tournament record that had endured for 46 years fell Saturday, and the way things have been going at Augusta National since Thursday’s first round, it was not surprising that it was broken by a foreigner.
Nicholas Raymond Leige (Nick) Price--a citizen of Zimbabwe, a native of South Africa, the holder of a British passport and now a resident of Orlando, Fla.--shot a nine-under-par 63, the lowest 18-hole score ever recorded in the 50-year history of this fabled tournament, and moved within one stroke of the lead at the end of 54 holes.
The leader was another foreigner, Greg Norman of Australia, who shot a 68 for a total of 210 on a course that was a soft touch for most of the 48 players on a calm, overcast day.
Again the leader board had a distinctive foreign flavor. Tied with Price at 211 were defending champion Bernhard Langer of West Germany and Severiano Ballesteros, the 36-hole leader, of Spain. Tommy Nakajima of Japan, playing as if on a roller coaster, was at 212. He started the day at three under par, lost three strokes, then scrambled back to four under par with three birdies on the last four holes.
Only Donnie Hammond, at 211, and Tom Kite and Tom Watson, at 212, prevented the United States from being shut out of the top eight. Bill Kratzert, who was second at the end of 36 holes, shot a 76 and was at 216, even par.
It was a day, Jack Nicklaus said, that “you could catch the course and shoot a good score. Obviously, the conditions were somewhat easier today.” There was no wind swirling around the pines, magnolias and dogwood, so club selection was not guesswork. And the greens, nearly as fast on Thursday and Friday as the streets of downtown Long Beach, were watered down to a reasonable speed.
“Today was a relief,” Watson said. “You felt as if you could attack the course. It was as defenseless as I’ve ever seen it. When there is no wind, there’s no guesswork.”
And attack it the players did. Eighteen shot in the 60s, and 34 shot par (72) or better. Hammond, Wayne Levi and Scott Simpson had 67s, and Peter Jacobsen, Curtis Strange, Sandy Lyle, Bruce Lietzke, Kite and Watson shot 68s. Nicklaus shot a 69 (he is four back at 214) and said, “I can’t remember when I broke 70.”
So, the stage was set for Nick Price, who started the day four over par and had no pressure on his slim shoulders. Incredibly, he broke the record of 64--which was set by Lloyd Mangrum in 1940 and later tied by five players--after making a bogey on the first hole and without reaching any of the four par-5 holes in two strokes.
He had 10 birdies, another record, and tied the nine-hole mark by touring the back side in 30. He made eight birdies on the first 13 holes, including four in a row from the 10th through the 13th, the infamous Amen Corner.
He almost had a 62, but his 30-foot birdie putt on No. 18 went up to the cup, rolled around it and came out. It was a bold putt by the 29-year-old Price, and if it hadn’t hit the hole, it might have cost him the record. Why take such a chance?
“I didn’t want to back off,” he said. “If I had left it four feet short, it would have showed I was bleeding.”
His drives on the first and last holes were his only bad shots, he said. He missed only two greens, the first and third. He knocked his tee shot on No. 1 into a bunker, and at No. 18 he was so nervous that he made a bad swing and hit his drive to the left onto a spectators’ path, 192 yards from the green. He reached it with a 4-iron shot.
On No. 1, after driving into the bunker, he escaped from the sand with a wedge and hit the ball 60 yards short of the green. Another wedge shot left him 15 feet from the hole, and he two-putted for a bogey.
Here is the way his round went from there through No. 17:
No. 2--Drive, 3-wood, wedge,. one putt from six feet. Birdie.
No. 3--Drive, wedge over green, wedge to four feet, one putt. Par.
No. 4--Three-iron, two putts from 20 feet. Par.
No. 5--Drive, 5-iron, one putt from 12 feet. Birdie.
No. 6--Six-iron, one putt from 20 feet. Birdie.
No. 7--Drive, wedge, two putts from 25 feet. Par.
No. 8--Drive, 3-wood, sand wedge, one putt from six feet. Birdie.
No. 9--Drive, 6-iron, two putts from 25 feet. Par.
No. 10--Drive, 6-iron, one putt from four feet. Birdie.
No. 11--Drive, 5-iron, one putt from 15 feet. Birdie.
No. 12--Seven-iron, one putt from 20 feet. Birdie.
No. 13--Drive into trees, 5-iron to within 65 yards of green, sand wedge, one putt from six feet. Birdie.
No. 14--Drive, 8-iron, two putts from 15 feet. Par.
No. 15--Drive, 5-iron to within 70 yards of green, sand wedge, one putt from three feet. Birdie.
No. 16--Five-iron, one putt from three feet. Birdie.
No. 17--Drive, 8-iron, two putts from 16 feet. Par.
His key club, he said, was his sand wedge, which he used more than usual because he was unable to reach any of the par-5 holes in two shots. Actually, he carried two sand wedges, one with more loft in the blade than the other. He left his 4-wood in the clubhouse and replaced his 1-iron with the second sand wedge. He had determined earlier not to try to reach the greens on the par-5 holes unless he had a 2-iron shot or less.
The greens gave him no trouble. “They are not difficult if you hit the ball as close as I did,” he said. “On the other days, I felt some of my putts would roll 20 feet past the cup. I have never played golf like it was here Thursday.”
The 63 was nothing new to Price. He shot the same score twice in South African tournaments. Oddly, his caddy’s number here this week is 63.
While conditions were undoubtedly easier Saturday, Augusta National, as Langer said, “was not a piece of cake. It never has been and never will be. You can’t get too aggressive here or you will make a triple bogey instead of a birdie.”
The course did not give up Price’s 63, Norman said. “I don’t think this course ever plays easy,” he said. “Price was four over, bogeyed the first hole and had no pressure on him.”
Augusta National is suited for Norman’s powerful game. His problem is, he said, “I can’t control my ego here. I get too aggressive.” He showed some of that aggressiveness Friday on the 10th green. After reaching it in two shots he took four putts, making one from three feet for a double-bogey 6.
Otherwise, he is following a more conservative game plan this week. “I am trying not to play any shot that has to be 100%,” he said. “I’ll lay up if necessary and shoot for the middle of the greens.”
His round of 68 included six birdies, three coming in a row at Amen Corner. He sank a seven-foot putt at No. 11 and made one from 18 feet at No. 12. On the 465-yard par-5 13th hole, he reached the green with a 6-iron shot and two-putted from 45 feet. He made the birdie that gave him the lead at No. 17 with a 17-foot putt.
He was surprised to find he had the lead. “I didn’t expect Seve to bogey 17 and 18,” he said. “But that’s Augusta National and that’s the Masters.”
As far as Ballesteros was concerned, his 72 and the bogeys at 17 and 18 were just part of the game. “It’s all right; it’s OK,” he said. “I am playing very well. I’m happy where I am; my position is very good.”
Virtually all his troubles Saturday came on the greens. He took 35 putts, and a four-foot birdie putt on the third hole was the longest putt he made. “I had the ball 15 times inside 25 feet and I didn’t make any,” he said.
On the 400-yard 17th hole, he said, “I hit a big drive, 100 yards from the green. I didn’t want to leave my second shot short so I tried to put something extra on it.” The result was, he pulled it to the left of the green. On No. 18, he knocked a poor 3-wood shot to the right side of the fairway and then hit a 7-iron shot into a bunker in front of the green. “I hit a bad shot,” he said. “But it’s OK.”
As Langer said: “It looks like a pretty exciting tournament.”
Watson said: “It is still a golf tournament. Nobody is running away with it. It’s still a horse race.”
Said Nicklaus: “I assume I’m in the hunt. At Augusta National, it’s the number of players that counts, rather than the number of shots.”
By that reasoning, at least 15 players have a shot at the 50th Masters championship. One thing they all must recognize, in Nicklaus’ view, is that they are playing in the Masters. There is pressure on all of them.
The best rounds in the 50-year history of the Masters on the 6,905-yard, par-36-36--72 Augusta National golf course, including year of performance.
Nick Price (1986) 33-30--63
Lloyd Mangrum (1940) 32-32--64
Jack Nicklaus (1965) 31-33--64
Maurice Bembridge (1974) 34-30--64
Hale Irwin (1975) 32-32--64
Gary Player (1978) 34-30--64
Miller Barber (1979) 31-33--64
The scorecard of Nick Price’s record-setting 33-30--63 in the third round of the Masters Saturday.
PAR OUT 454 343 454--36PRICE OUT 544 332 444--33PAR IN 443 545 344--36--72
PRICE IN 332 444 244--30--63