The double-eagle that Louis Oosthuizen scored on the second hole of Augusta National Golf Course on Sunday afternoon of this year’s Masters has already faded into history and golf trivia. It was the fourth such feat at Augusta, and remarkable as it was, that shot was not heard around the world, and was quickly over shadowed by Bobba Watson’s brilliant 52-degree wedge played from deep in the pines on the second play-off hole that won the tournament for him.
Nevertheless, for a brief moment in the final round, Oosthuizen’s 4-iron on No. 2 brought back to mind the most famous double-eagle in golf’s history. Gene Sarazen’s fairway wood on No. 15 in 1935 catapulted him forever into fame, thanks to sports writer Grantland Rice who coined the phrase, “The Shot Heard Round the World.”
Rice’s clever description made Sarazen’s career. It also made the Masters Tournament.
Grantland Rice was, for those who don’t immediately recognize the name, the most famous sportswriter of the ‘20 and ’30s. He was also an early Augusta National member and it was Rice in the winter of 1931-32 who brought a half dozen wealthy New York friends down to Augusta National on a private train car to meet Bobby Jones, up-close-and-personal, and see Augusta National before the course was completed. Those wealthy New Yorkers became charter members of Augusta National and helped Jones and Cliff Roberts launch the Masters Tournament.
A year later, in 1935, Sarazen, playing a newly designed spoon off the wet par-5 fifteen fairway, scored a deuce, tied Craig Wood, and the next day, in a 36-hole playoff, won the tournament. Afterwards Cliff Roberts summed up Sarazen’s double-eagle by saying “it put the Masters in business.”
What focused the sports world on Gene Sarazen and his achievement was the claim, as Grantland Rice scripted it, that Gene’s shot was ‘heard around the world.’ That phrase packaged the ‘moment’ for readers of the sport pages, and gave Gene Sarazen and the Masters Tournament an identity, or at they might say on Mad Men today, ‘a brand.’
There is, however, a lot of history, as well as faulty memories and myths, surrounding that Sunday afternoon double-eagle. Here is what happened on No. 15 that changed Sarazen’s life, and made the Masters. I have gathered it from five fine accounts of the Tournament, books written by David Owen, Furman Bisher, Charles Price, George B. Kirsch, and the great golf journalist Al Barkow, who is the author of two classics of the game: Golf’s Golden Grind, and Getting’ To The Dance Floor: An Oral History of American Golf.
In the many stories of what took place in ‘35 we have a variety of different recollections that lead nevertheless to the same conclusion. Craig Wood, a club pro out of Winged Foot Country Club in New York, teed off four holes ahead of Sarazen. He birdied 14, then birdied the par-5 15 with two woods. He also birdied 18 and finished six-under at 282.
Sarazen, playing with Walter Hagen, was on No. 14 and heard the cheers echoing through the tall, thin pines. Hagen shook his head and said to Sarazen, “Well, Gene, it looks like it’s all over.”
In his story of that day, Sarazen tells how they–Hagen and himself–only had one galleryite, Joe Williams, the New York columnist. When they heard the cheers, Sarazen recalled, “We didn’t know for sure, but we had a pretty good idea what had happened. Joe said, ‘Well, I’ve seen enough of you bums. I’m going up to see the winner,’ and he strolled off.”
Hagen was in a hurry to finish. Always a woman’s man, he had a date waiting for him up on eighteen green and urged Gene, “Go on and play, will ya. I want to get through here.”
Sarazen, who was now three stroked down with four holes to play, snapped back, “I dunno. They could drop in from anywhere.”
Sarazen had a big drive on 15 but when he reached the ball he saw the lie wasn’t good. He studied his shot and the contour of the hole. The green was just beyond the pond. It wasn’t much of a pond, maybe forty feet across, but it protected the green. Bobby Jones has designed this, and the other par-fives on the course, to discourage the faint-hearted and penalize the foolhardy.
“I knew I couldn’t get the ball up out of that lie with a three-wood,” Sarazen said. “But I had a new four-wood club in my bag called a ‘Dodo’. I decided to toe it in a bit for extra distance and go for it.”
He knew from the moment he hit the ball that it would be close. The ball went straight for the hole, about 235 yards away. It didn’t carry onto the green. It landed short and rolled about 15 feet up and into the cup. Sarazen recalled: “There wasn’t that steep incline in front of the green that’s there now. If I hit the same shot today, it would roll back in the water. The only way I could tell if it dropped or not was that those 20 people around the green all jumped up and yelled like hell, and one of them was Bob Jones. He had walked down from the clubhouse to see Hagen and me finish.”
Oosthuizen’s double-eagle this year was only the fourth in Masters’ history. In 1994 Jeff Maggert made one on No.13, and in 1967 Bruce Delvin double-eagled No. 8. Those scores have all slipped into obscurity. Sarazen’s double-eagle, however, made a difference. With it, he tied Craig Wood and the next day he beat Wood in a playoff.
It was a terrible Monday, Sarazen remembered. “The weather was rotten. Not more than a few hundred people were in the gallery. Craig played poorly. I took the lead on ten and never lost it. I had 27 straight pars at one stretch, and I beat him by five strokes.”
For all this, first prize was only $750; the total purse was just $5,000. Grantland Rice presented the check to Sarazen.
But Grantland Rice gave Gene Sarazen much more than money. Rice made Sarazen a golf legend when he labeled him the player who ‘made the shot heard around the world.’