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Posted March 23, 2012, 7:40 pm |

1975: Nicklaus wins fifth Masters as Elder breaks color barrier

  • Article Photos
    1975: Nicklaus wins fifth Masters as Elder breaks color barrier
    Photos description
  • Article Photos
    1975: Nicklaus wins fifth Masters as Elder breaks color barrier
    Photos description
    Front Page of The Augusta Chronicle after the 1975 Masters Tournament

Jack Nicklaus was at the height of his considerable powers in 1975.

He was No. 1 in major championship wins, not to mention the top player and most respected competitor in the game.

Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller, each with a major victory to his credit, were also at their peaks that year.
The three men - no one else was really close on the weekend - combined to stage one of the most memorable Masters of all time.

First, some background:

Nicklaus set a blistering pace in the first two rounds with scores of 68 and 67.

Weiskopf, already a three-time Masters runner-up, was six back. And Miller, one of the pretournament favorites, was 11 back.

That all changed in Saturday's third round as Nicklaus stumbled to 73. That left the door open for Weiskopf (66) and Miller (65) to get back into contention.

What transpired in the final round was one of the great shootouts in Masters history.

After the first nine, Nicklaus and Weiskopf were tied for the lead, with Miller two back. The three jockeyed for position on the back nine until Nicklaus pulled ahead with two clutch birdies on the 15th and 16th holes.

The first, at the par-5 15th, was a routine two-putt after Nicklaus had lashed a 1-iron 15 feet from the pin. The one at No. 16 was a shocker, though: Nicklaus holed from 40 feet and then broke into a celebratory trot around the green.

Just before Nicklaus' putt, Weiskopf had birdied the par-5 15th as well.

That sent the gallery into a frenzy, and CBS announcer Ben Wright said, "That is evil music ringing in Nicklaus' ears.''

But when Nicklaus responded with his unlikely birdie, Henry Longhurst described it this way:

"That has to be the greatest putt I ever saw in my life. And now Weiskopf will have to take it as he dished it out before.''

Shaken, Weiskopf made bogey at 16 to fall one behind Nicklaus. Miller made birdie at the 17th to pull within one.
On the 18th, both men had chances to send the tournament to a playoff, but each missed from inside 10 feet, securing a record fifth green jacket for Nicklaus.

Even Nicklaus, who had seen his share of memorable golf, knew he had just been part of something special.

"In all the time I have played golf, I thought this was the most exciting display I had ever seen,'' he said.

Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. Twenty-eight years later, in 1975, Lee Elder entered the history books as the first black golfer to play at the Masters.

Elder qualified for the 1975 tournament by winning the 1974 Monsanto Open, defeating current CBS announcer Peter Oosterhuis in a playoff. Elder's victory put an end to any disputes over the qualification criteria for the Masters.

Though much was made of his 1975 appearance, Elder tried to treat the occasion as a normal event. But like most first-timers, he didn't make the cut, shooting rounds of 74 and 78.

"It was suspected that Elder would play poorly at Augusta because he was unfamiliar with the course, which turned out to be the case," Dan Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated .

Elder returned to play in five consecutive Masters from 1977 to 1981. His best finish was a tie for 17th in 1979.
He paved the way for other black golfers, such as Calvin Peete, Jim Thorpe and Tiger Woods, to play in Augusta. Elder returned in 1997 to witness Woods' first Masters victory, but he is not satisfied with the number of blacks making an impact in golf.

1975 Masters

 PlayerFR1R2R3R4 Earn.
1Jack Nicklaus-1268677368 $40,000
2Johnny Miller-1175716566 $21,250
2Tom Weiskopf-1169726670 $21,250
4Hale Irwin-673747164 $12,500
4Bobby Nichols-667747269 $12,500
6Billy Casper-570707370 $7,500
7Dave Hill-475717068 $6,000
8Hubert Green-374717070 $4,500
8Tom Watson-370707273 $4,500
10Tom Kite-272747169 $3,600
10J.C. Snead-269727570 $3,600
10Lee Trevino-271707471 $3,600