Bob Goalby sensed something wasn’t quite right when he saw Roberto de Vicenzo still at Augusta National’s scoring table when he arrived from his Sunday round 50 years ago. Even so, he first went about checking his scorecard in anticipation of a Monday playoff.
Instead, there was no playoff. Goalby was alone at the top after de Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard, accepting a par at No.17 when he’d actually made birdie. Somehow playing partner Tommy Aaron was the only one who didn’t notice, and de Vicenzo didn’t correct it at the table.
The scoring gaffe had the Argentinian muttering, “What a stupid I am.”
In the end, the Rules of Golf left officials no choice but to accept de Vicenzo’s mistaken score as official and drape the green jacket over Goalby’s shoulders.
“I felt no elation, nothing like you’d expect from winning the biggest tournament of your life,” Goalby told Golf Digest recently. “It was tragic for Roberto, but it was equally unfortunate for me. I never did get full credit for what I’d done.”
Goalby got hate mail after the win, with detractors arguing he should have refused victory without the playoff. But he says that would have been disrespectful to both Augusta National and the Rules of Golf.
“Lots of people don’t know that golf is played strictly by the rules. If you’re out of bounds by an inch, it’s the same as 10 inches,” Goalby, now 89, said in a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune.
“Gary Player may have put it best: ‘We spend 10 hours a day practicing and playing golf; we should be able to spend two minutes making sure your card is correct.’”
Through time, Goalby has become more recognized for his feat as the story gets repackaged through digital media.
“As a player, we don’t look at it as any kind of asterisk. He was the winner and deservedly so,” Hale Irwin told the Chicago Tribune.
HOW IT WAS REPORTED IN 1968
This is a report by Will Grimsley from the Monday, April 15, 1968 edition of the Evening Standard (Uniontown, Pennsylvania).
AUGUSTA, Ga. APJ — Bob Goalby, a 30-1 dark-horse, won the 32nd Masters golf title Sunday when Roberto de Vicenizo of Argentina, who apparently had tied for the lead, signed an erroneous score card.
The shock announcement came moments after both had finished in an apparent dead heat at 277. Hord Hardin, president of the U.S. Golf Association and chairman of the Masters Rules Committee, announced that Roberto had signed for a 4 at the 17th hole where he took a 3.
Under the rules, a player is stuck with the score for which he signs if it is a higher score. If it is a lower score, he is automatically disqualified. The incident threw a damper over one of the most thrilling and dramatic finishes in Masters history.
De Vicenzo was credited with second money at 278. Hardin’s official announcement said in part: “Under the rules golf, he (De Vicenzo) will be charged with a 66, which does not leave him in a tie with Bob Goalby, who is 11 under par.”
On the 17th, De Vicenzo sank a four-foot putt for a birdie simultaneously with an eagle putt of about 10 feet by Goalby on the par 5 15th. De Vicenzo, nearly in tears, said, “I made the wrong score. I feel so sorry for myself.
“But I congratulate Bob Goalby,” the Argentine added. “He gave me so much pressure that I lose my brains.”
Clifford Roberts, founder of the tournament, said that he will always consider De Vicenzo a champion along with Goalby for 1968. Both players finished shakily, showing signs of surrendering to the extreme pressure. De Vicenzo, hitting his second shot on the 18th into a crowd at the left, took a bogey 5. Goalby bogeyed the 17th, three-putting, and then came to the 18th, where he needed a par for an apparent tie.
Tommy Aaron, playing with De Vicenzo, kept Roberto’s card and was responsible for the mistake. He said he was sitting under the umbrella at the official desk on No. 18 when he noticed that he had made an error and had given De Vicenzo a 4 instead of a 3 on the 17th.
“I looked around and tried to find him, but he had gone,” Aaron said. The golfers play in twosome and keep their opponent’s card as well as their own. Each player has the responsibility of checking the card kept by his opponent and making sure it is correct. For years, golf authorities have argued that the penalty is so severe and, the rules should be changed. A similar incident happened n the U.S. Women’s Open at Mamaroneck N.Y. in 1957. Jackie Pung of Hawaii won the title hut in the confusion surrounding her victory she inadvertently signed an erroneous card.
Tommy Aaron, the man who wrote down the wrong scores, would go on to win his own green jacket five years later, in 1973. And with great irony, Johnny Miller, his playing partner, incorrectly wrote down a higher score, but Aaron caught the mistake in the scorer’s tent.