Green Jacket Confidential: Masters champions Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd and Billy Casper join our roundtable

Raymond Floyd, 1976 Masters
James Drake/Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated cover from Raymond Floyd's 1976 Masters win. Floyd said he can't pick just one special moment from that tournament.

 

3. What memory stands out the most from your victory at Augusta?

Floyd: I think it was one of those things that only happens a couple of times in your life where all gears are clicking. I drove well, I hit greens in regulation and I was putting beautifully. I hit more par 5s in two than I missed greens. You never see that written about that week. So I played tee-to-green under par. That’s pretty exceptional there. It was the event that I wanted to win. I grew up geographically very near there in North Carolina. As a youngster, every game I played was, “If I make this putt, I win the Masters.” “If I par this hole, I can win the Masters.” Without question, I can’t extrapolate one shot or one thing for the week. The way the week went down, I went wire-to-wire and won by eight. At that time, I tied the record that Jack had set. From all of that, how could I pull one thing? I couldn’t do that. On Sunday I knew how well I was playing, and I didn’t want to go into a power-saving mode. I didn’t want to go out and play safe. A lot of players -- and we’ve all done it if you’ve had enough experience -- you will get playing well, get a lead and just start protecting it. All of a sudden, somebody catches you, you try and get it back in gear and it’s gone. Respect it and run with it while you have it.

Immelman: It was an opportunity for me to really do something great in my career. My senses were heightened. I was playing well since the first day, so I was excited to get out there. It was a tough day, so it was real windy, and it was a little cold to start. It was a pretty challenging day. We got out there and were just trying to hang on and survive. I found myself with quite a large lead with three holes to play. At that point, I was just trying to get it into the house there. It was definitely a big deal, but those first three days definitely prepared me somewhat for what to expect. I played real late on Saturday, so I was used to the morning routine having slept on the lead. I definitely think leading the first three days gave me a little taste of what to expect on Sunday.

Player: My favorite Masters would probably be the 1978 tournament when I won my final green jacket.  I was 7 strokes off the lead going into the final round, but was certain that I still had the ability to make a good run at a comeback. My son Wayne told me that morning if I had a good putting day, I could shoot 65 and still win. With that number in mind, I shot a 34 on the front before my putter really started to heat up. The back nine of the 1978 Masters was the best nine holes of my life. There is no better feeling than to shoot 30, for a total of 64, on Sunday to win the Masters. At that point, I was the oldest player ever to win the Green Jacket. It was a wonderful feeling at age 42.

Casper: It was very interesting. I walked off the back of the green, and [former Augusta National Chairman] Cliff Roberts was there. And he extended his hand. I shook it and expected him to say, “Congratulations, Billy.” But he didn’t. He said, “Thank you, Billy.” So that made it very special. He had been rooting for me for years, and we had a very close relationship.

Palmer: I won three times prior to 1964, and they were all squeakers. They were very tough wins. The one thing I wanted was to be able to walk up No. 18 in a relaxed mood and feel confident that I could win. And that happened in ’64. There’s never anything real easy about winning the Masters.

4. Is there a certain Masters that you didn’t win that still stands out in your mind as especially memorable?

Player: I competed in my first Masters Tournament in 1957 after my father wrote Clifford Roberts, the chairman of Augusta National, saying how much he admired the Masters Tournament and told him of my victories in 1956 at the South African Open, the Dunlop event in the UK and at the Ampol championship in Australia. My dad received a letter back from Mr. Roberts saying: "Pass the hat!" in response to my father saying that he would take a collection at the local golf club to pay for my trip if I received an invite. With Mr. Roberts’ go-ahead, I was on my way.  That first time on the ground of Augusta National was a moment that I will never forget.  After walking down Magnolia Lane, the first thing I did was go to the practice tee, not to hit balls, but to watch some of the players I most respected and admired like Ben Hogan and Sam Snead practicing. It was an amazing moment.

Immelman: The one that really got me into it was the first one I watched live on television in South Africa in 1986. You had Jack, who was 46, Seve and Norman, all at the top of their games. All of the best players in the world were on that first page of the leaderboard that day, and Jack shot that 30 on the back nine to win. I had never seen anything like that. I was only 6 years old, but even watching it in South Africa, you could feel the nervousness, the emotion and the excitement. I've watched every Masters since then.

Floyd: When Freddie [Couples] won, I finished second. So that’s usually not good, but second isn’t bad. Jack Stephens, who was the chairman, asked [my wife] Maria and I to stay because he knew how close Freddie and I were, and we stayed for his dinner that night. So that’s an unusual situation for Augusta.

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