1986 Masters: Koch knew to hurry up and hit

Jack Nicklaus receives the Green Jacket from 1985 winner Bernhard Langer.

Jack Nicklaus receives the Green Jacket from 1985 winner Bernhard Langer.

Gary Koch and Bob Tway faced a bit of a dilemma during the final round of the 1986 Masters. Playing in the group ahead of Jack Nicklaus, they found themselves playing the last four holes at Augusta National at a torrid pace – just trying to stay out of the way.

Koch was putting out on the par-3 12th hole when he began to sense that the Golden Bear was on the prowl. Koch had heard roars when he was on the 10th and 11th holes. But the roar for Nicklaus at No. 11, as he made his third consecutive birdie less than 200 yards from where Koch stood on the 12th green, signaled something special was brewing.

“I guess it was probably the 15th when it really kind of sunk in what was going on,” Koch said. “He was waiting out in the fairway and we putted out. We walked over to the 16th tee and of course, he hits the iron shot in there pretty close, and the place just went ballistic.

“So I looked at Tway, and he looked at me, and we basically said, ‘You know, we need to get out of here. Because it’s getting too loud.’ ”

Koch and Tway would hit “real quick” at 16 and almost jogged to the green, hoping they could putt out before Nicklaus attempted his eagle putt. But they couldn’t, and the stage belonged to Jack.

“Of course he makes the putt there, and the whole place (erupts),” Koch said. “The neat thing about 15 is that you have the people to the right of the green, the people to the left of the green, you’ve got all the people around on the bank (on the left side) at 16 and around behind 16 (green). And of course they’re all watching him. They’re not watching us. And it just was electric. The hair on the back of your neck just stood up.”

Once they finished 16, Koch and Tway again tried to race ahead of the Nicklaus surge. Nicklaus then stiffed his tee shot at 16. “It was crazy again,” recalled Koch. After hurriedly playing the 17th, Koch and Tway teed off on 18, and as they walked down the fairway, Nicklaus buried his birdie at 17 to take the lead.

“That roar when he made the putt at 17,” said Koch, “was probably, if not the loudest roar I’ve ever heard on the golf course, right next to it.”

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