This will be my second April going to the Masters as a broadcaster, not a player. Being at Augusta and not competing is a different experience—you can really enjoy the atmosphere. Up in the booth I still see the action through a player’s eyes, which helps me decipher what guys are trying to do. That’s the challenge: to get inside a player’s head at key moments.
An example of that from my own playing days came on the thirteenth hole during the final round in 1996, the year of my last Masters title. Greg Norman and I were on the fairway, and Ken Venturi was up in the booth, not quite realizing what was going on between me and my caddie, Fanny Sunesson, on the second shot. I can’t blame him, because what transpired was pretty unusual. In fact I’ve always considered it one of the great bits of suspense I ever experienced in tournament golf.
Greg’s ball was up ahead of mine. He had a clear shot to the green, but he was on the pine straw. My ball was on a sidehill lie above my feet. The lie was a bit downhill, as well. At that point I had taken the lead by two, and Greg faced a tough call about whether to go for the green—it’s dicey playing a shot over the creek from those pine needles. When Fanny and I walked out to the ball, we both were thinking five-wood was the club. I had 232 yards to the pin and 208 to the very front of the green. This five-wood of mine would consistently carry 210 to 215 yards, and it flew higher than a long iron, so I could land it softer. It was a great little metal five-wood, a Mizuno T-Zoid, if you remember those, and I had put it in the bag just for the Masters. I had carried it around all week, but there we were on Sunday on the back nine and I had only hit it once. Which was strange, because during practice rounds I was hitting it constantly. On every fairway I would say to Fanny, “Okay, where’s the five-wood shot?” And she’d throw down a ball at 210 and I’d fire away.
And so, as she was giving me the yardages there on thirteen, it was obvious five-wood was the club. Except for one problem: I couldn’t sole it properly. I set it down behind the ball, and when I lightened my grip, the clubface tilted shut. I set it down again and the face fell open a bit. Because of the lie, the club wouldn’t sit square for me. So right away a voice in my head said, “No, mate, you don’t want any part of this. Go get the iron.”
I stepped toward the bag, and Fanny looked at me like: What’s the problem?
She hadn’t noticed the club not addressing properly, so she’d started to wonder if the old nerves were coming on. I looked her in the eye and said: “I’m all right.” Then I pulled the two-iron and asked her to give me the numbers again. I didn’t need them, but I needed her to go through them because that was our routine. Then I put the two-iron down, and being a thin blade it sat up just fine. I gave it a full belt and just nailed the shot, which finished about thirty feet from the hole. From there I two-putted for the four. It was as satisfying a two-iron as I’ve ever hit.
A year later I was watching a tape of that Masters and got a chuckle hearing Venturi’s commentary. He was watching our conversation and saw me going back and forth to the bag, and he figured something was badly amiss. “They don’t have a plan,” he’s saying on the tape. “Faldo doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing out there.” In fact we just had a lot of things to work through, one by one. We kept at it until we got it all sorted out.