Masters memories: Arnold Palmer blows up at the last

The Masters

The King looked set to defend his title in 1961, but disaster struck

The background: Arnold Palmer already had two green jackets in the locker but was trying to become the first player to defend his title in 1961.

Sharing the lead for the first two days, Palmer had dropped four strokes behind Gary Player as the final round got under way.

Heavy rains and flooding meant Sunday’s finale was halted early and scores were erased – even though 10 players had completed their tournaments. The entire round was replayed the next day.

The scene: Amateur Charles Coe looked like becoming the first amateur to win the event as his final round 69, and a score of 281, suddenly put him in contention as the Masters reached a climax.

He had started six shots behind Player and was still as many shots adrift as the South African completed the ninth.

But Player struggled terribly on run in and needed an up-and-down from a bunker on the 18th to record a back nine of 40. He thought the tournament was gone.

8 Apr 1999: Gary Player of South Africa looks anxiously after his ball during the 1999 US Masters at the Augusta National GC in Augusta, Georgia, USA. Mandatory Credit: David Cannon /Allsport

Palmer, meanwhile, stood on the 18th tee leading by a shot. A par would make history.

The moment: Palmer found the fairway with his drive but, inexplicably, seemed to get carried away.

Striding up the 18th in what looked like a victory march, Palmer accepted congratulations from his friend George Low.

Only from his perfect position, he found the same bunker Player made a heroic par save from earlier.

Hampered by a poor lie, Arnie’s shot sailed past the hole, off the green and down a hillock.

He didn’t chip back up, preferring to use the putter and then missed a 15-footer that would have put him into a tie.

His double bogey had given Player the first of three green jackets. When Palmer lost, he did it in style.

The Army would have more victories to cheer, though. Palmer avenged his defeat 12 months later and won again in 1964.

But he would never defend the title. The first to achieve that honour would be his arch rival, Jack Nicklaus, in 1965 and 1966.

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