Venturi a familiar figure at Masters

 

Ken Venturi was a familiar face at the Masters Tournament for nearly 50 years.

He played in 14 Masters between 1954 and 1969, and he twice finished as runner-up.

After his playing career ended, he served as an honorary starter in 1983 but became familiar to millions as the lead golf analyst for CBS for 35 years. He called his final Masters in 2002.

Venturi had two close calls at slipping into the green jacket, and both ended in heartbreaking fashion.

In 1956, Venturi was poised to become the first amateur to win the Masters. He led after 54 holes but shot 80 in the windswept final round. Jack Burke Jr. edged him by one shot.

“I hit 15 greens, but I three-putted six times,” Venturi told The Augusta Chronicle in 2002.

In 1960, Venturi held the clubhouse lead but lost when Arnold Palmer birdied the final two holes.

“I’m in the clubhouse, and he finishes 3-3-3 to win,” Venturi said. “The next year, Gary Player was in the clubhouse in the lead, and Palmer went 3-4-6 and lost.

“I was thinking, ‘Why the hell me? What did I do?’ But I gave it my best.”

In 1958, Venturi and Palmer crossed paths for the first time as Palmer won the first of his four Masters titles.

The two were paired together in the final round, and Palmer’s tee shot on the par-3 12th flew the green and plugged into the bank behind it.

Palmer and the rules official on the 12th were unsure whether he was entitled to a free drop from the plugged lie, so Palmer played the muddy ball and wound up taking a double-bogey five.

Then, he went back and dropped a second ball and played a pitch that finished close to the hole. He made the short putt for par and turned his fate over to the Masters committee to decide which score would count.

Three holes later, the committee ruled in Palmer’s favor and he went on to win by one shot over Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins, and Venturi tied for fourth.

In his 2004 book Getting Up & Down: My 60 Years in Golf, Venturi asserted that Palmer broke the rules in 1958.

Venturi said Palmer decided to play a second ball only after he made double bogey and should have declared his intentions before playing the first ball.

“I firmly believe that he did wrong and that he knows that I know he did wrong,” Venturi wrote.

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