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Masters 2014: Scott Hoch reflects on the missed putt that cost him the 1989 Masters

Scott Hoch misses his putt during a playoff at the 1989 Masters.
Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto/Getty Images
Scott Hoch reacts after missing his putt during a playoff at the 1989 Masters.

Twenty-five years ago, Scott Hoch yanked a two-footer that would have won him a green jacket. Regrets? Nah. Now 58, he says he hit a good putt, and that winning the 1989 Masters could have hurt his career.

What's strange about that week is that I didn't get there until Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. My wife and I were both really sick; we had a 3- and a 5-year-old, and they were the ones taking care of us. We almost could not get out of bed. We missed all our flights and ended up having to drive up to Augusta [from Florida] with our kids. So the whole week started out very odd. There was no indication that it was going to be good.

The only practice round I had was Wednesday. I probably didn't finish until 4:00. They were doing all the preparations to the course and I was the only one out there for about two or three hours. So I had a better feel for how it would play on Thursday. On 15, for example, they'd let the grass grow in front of the green. Well, on Wednesday they're shaving down the bank—just like on 12. Plus, the greens were sped up by then, so I got a good feel for it.

I never played the par-3 contest again. I was always the last one on the course on Wednesday.

On Sunday morning, I took the same approach as I had at any other tournament in which I had been in contention.[Hoch started the round four strokes behind Ben Crenshaw.] I just tried to go out and do what I'd been doing all week. Be patient. What made that week different? Well, people may say, "Yeah, right," but I felt more at ease that day being in contention than I had in just about any other tournament.

Why? I have no idea. It could have been the bad weather on Sunday. You were just trying to have dry grips, to concentrate on playing in the mist and the rain and as it started getting dark.

When I was walking from 16 to 17, a fan yelled that I just needed two pars to win. It took my mind off what I had been doing; I'd been concentrating so well, working on something special with my driver and driving it really well. But after somebody said that, I got on the [17th] tee and didn't get my mind focused on what techniques I was trying to work on. I hit a poor drive. I hit it to the right and normally it wouldn't have been that bad, but my ball hit a limb, bounced right and ended up in bad spot.

I made a mental mistake on the second shot at 17. It's a short hole but I had to hit a 4-iron due to where I had hit it off the tee. If I could do it over again, I'd hit one less club. Where that pin was, you can't miss it right or long. I did a combination of both [and made bogey, followed by a par at 18].

Heading into the playoff with Nick Faldo, I was thinking, "This is still mine." I felt good about it. When we teed off, a whole bunch of young guys were yelling, "U-S-A! U-S-A!" I looked over and said, "This isn't the Ryder Cup, guys." I was trying to keep it more civil.

Faldo hit some poor shots on 10 [the first playoff hole] and it looked like he was going to make bogey after his second shot. I had a similar shot into that green earlier in the day—a 4-iron, I believe. It hit the middle of the green and the ball released to the back, because the greens were much firmer earlier in the day. It rained more and more as the day went on, and this time I probably had a longer shot, so I said, "I'm going to hit a 4 and this should be just right." When I hit it I loved it, but the ball landed on the front part of the green and stopped. It didn't release like it had earlier in the day, so it left me with a long putt.

Another mistake I made was hitting that first putt past the hole, which is one thing you cannot do. It was a long uphill putt—35 feet or so—and I hit it on the exact line I wanted. I just hit it too firm. I remember thinking before the first putt, "It's wet, and it's going to be slow going uphill, so give it a chance." I was just trying to leave it by the hole. I figured if it goes in, it should be on the last roll. Then I hit it past and said, "Oh, shoot," or something like that. [Laughs] I knew it was a mistake. And then Faldo missed his 15-foot par putt. He hit it three or four feet by and he had a sidehill putt. He putted out and got his 5.

I looked at my par putt to win [from two feet above the hole] and I had a good idea of what it was going to do and how I wanted to hit it. I was behind it, and I started to go to address it—and again I didn't have the thoughts I wanted to. Before the playoff one of the TV people said, "Hey, so-and-so wants to see you on the Today show." So I was thinking of other things—like, "Okay, finally I'm going to win a major"—instead of thinking about the putt. That's why I stepped back. Somebody said that [Ben] Crenshaw joined the telecast and said, "Oh, this is a mistake to step back and look at it again." But what I was really doing was stepping back away to get my mind straight.

Then I stepped up and missed. I know when I've hit a bad stroke—I've hit plenty of bad ones—and that was not a bad stroke. I felt good on it. I looked up. And I'd missed it. I wanted to play it inside left, and I hit it the speed I wanted to. I wasn't trying to just drop it in there. To this day the only thing I can think of is that I had it lined up incorrectly, because the stroke felt good.

See Scott Hoch's putt at about the 1:19 mark below.

 

The next stroke was even harder. I'm thinking, "Man, you can't four-putt to lose a major tournament." That would really be embarrassing. [Laughs] So I was quite relieved when I made the third putt, because it was longer than the second one.

I've never watched the telecast, though I might have been watching the Masters [in ensuing years] and seen the putt replayed. And, no, I've never gone back and tried the putt again. The stroke felt fine so there wasn't anything I could learn from it.

Ten or 12 years later Seve [Ballesteros] came up to me at a tournament and said, "It's all your fault." I go, "Seve, what are you talking about?" He goes, "It's all your fault. If you wouldn't have three-putted at Augusta nobody would've heard of Nick Faldo, and I'd still be 'Seve.'(Thinspace)" What he meant is that after that week Faldo became the best golfer in the world and got all the press in Europe, and Seve went from being the most popular player to not being that guy. There was no context. He just came up to me, said that and left.

If I had made that putt I might have been like a lot of other guys and gone around the world and taken in all the money that you can make off [winning a major] and burned myself out. That's happened a number of times and I'm sure it will continue to. If I'd won, I might not have won much after that. My career was much better after the tournament [eight Tour wins] than it was before [three wins]. So it didn't hurt me.

Three or four weeks after that Masters, I got in another playoff [in Las Vegas] and I was fortunate enough to win it. I hit a lot of great shots. I birdied the last hole to get in the playoff. I birdied in the playoff to keep it going. I birdied to win. So Augusta showed me that I could play with the big boys and it helped me from there on.

How much will the putt define my legacy? I don't know—I try to justify it by thinking, "Hey, if I had won a major, I could have gotten in a plane crash trying to chase money somewhere." Things could have happened to me that weren't good. I just look at it as a chance missed.

Yes, I wanted to win a major. I wasn't shying away from it. And I knew what it means. When you play with guys and they're announced on the first tee as the Open winner or the Masters winner, that's special.

If I had won the Masters, I wouldn't have wanted a locker [in the Champions locker Room]. I would have asked for one downstairs. I don't think it's good to separate the winner from the other contestants. It would be great for other players, especially first-timers, to have lockers next to a great champion like Tom Watson or whoever. They probably wouldn't have let me do it because they're pretty stuck in their ways.

If I was a past champion, I don't know if I'd still go back to play. When I was an amateur, I played there with a past champion—I'm not going to name him—and he was a complete ass. He kept getting in my way while I was playing. This was an old former champion, not a big name. If you can't compete, there's no sense in going back.

Has the media let that putt go? Well, you're calling. No, for a long time they didn't. That's just the lore of Augusta. I'm one of the people thrown by the wayside. Now it has to be a special occasion for it to come up again—like, say, the 25th [anniversary]. And if I'm lucky enough to be alive on the 50th, it might come up again.

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