Arnold Palmer didn’t invent the charge. It just seems that way.
At the 1960 Masters Tournament, Palmer gave a glimpse of things to come when he birdied the final two holes to nip Ken Venturi and win by a stroke.
Palmer’s come-from-behind win was a little misleading. He led after each round, posting a first-round 67 that put him six strokes ahead of Venturi.
Two rounds later, Palmer held the lead, but Venturi had narrowed the gap to one stroke.
In those days, Masters officials did not pair golfers based on score. Venturi went out ahead of Palmer and his playing partner, Billy Casper.
Venturi, who had nearly won the Masters as an amateur in 1956, got off to a fast start with 3-under-par 33 on the front nine. Palmer, meanwhile, shot even-par on the front and was two shots behind Venturi.
On the final nine, Venturi struggled to 1-over-par 37 and finished with 70, the best round of the day to that point.
As reporters gathered around to interview who they thought was the winner, Venturi offered some words of caution: “I haven’t won it yet.”
Palmer, though, could not make anything but pars on the back nine. Even on the two par-5s, Palmer failed to make birdie. By the time he reached the 17th tee, Palmer knew he was one shot behind and needed a birdie to force a tie with Venturi.
On the 17th, Palmer played an indifferent approach that finished about 30 feet from the pin. But he rolled that putt in for birdie, much to the delight of Arnie’s Army.
One person who couldn’t bear to watch was Palmer’s wife, Winnie.
“I couldn’t look. I didn’t see it, but I heard it,” she said of the birdie on No. 17. “It sounded like the best putt of the tournament.”
Some would argue that the next hole was even better for Palmer.
On the final hole, he hit a solid drive and was left with a 6-iron to the green. He hit it six feet to the left of the pin, then calmly rolled in the birdie putt for his second Masters triumph in three years.
Palmer admitted that he was a little tight on the last two holes.
“The only thing that really bothered me was my mouth got a little dry,” he said. “I wanted some gum to chew or something.”
The loss was a crushing blow to Venturi, but he was gracious in defeat.
“I didn’t give it away,” he told reporters. “Arnold won it because he played great golf.”
Palmer was apologetic after the round.
“I wanted to win more than anything, Ken, but I’m truly sorry it had to be this way,” he said.
Although the Masters was Palmer’s fifth win of the year, he wasn’t done yet. He proved his flashy finish in Augusta was not a fluke as he mounted a huge rally at the U.S. Open to win after trailing by seven shots going into the final round.
Sparking talk of sweeping golf’s four majors, Palmer challenged at the British Open that year but finished second.
In all, Palmer won eight times in 1960 and enjoyed his most successful season as a pro.