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De Vicenzo Recalls Personal Day of Infamy in the 1968 Masters

June 15, 1986|Associated Press

DUBLIN, Ohio — It has been 18 years since Roberto De Vicenzo committed the greatest faux pas in golf history.

At the 1968 Masters tournament, De Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard, giving Bob Goalby the green jacket instead of having to earn it in a sudden-death playoff.

"Unfortunately, Roberto is known as much for what he didn't do as for what he has done," said Jack Nicklaus, founder and host of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club here, where De Vicenzo is the honoree of the tournament's 11th year.

De Vicenzo, now 63, has won more than 230 golf tournaments all over the world, including nine PGA Tour events and the British Open. But the 18th hole at Augusta National is the one that stands out in the public memory.

He had birdied hole No. 17--the 71st hole of the 1968 Masters--for a one-shot lead over Goalby. But on the 18th, the graceful Argentinian posted a bogey that he thought had cost him the championship.

"I was two holes behind him," Goalby recalls. "He bogeyed the last hole and he was very upset with himself and he didn't check his card very thoroughly. . . . He figured he had blown the tournament.

"But in the meantime, I three-putted 17 . . . and we were tied. Then I parred 18 to supposedly end up tied with him."

But Tommy Aaron, playing in the same group with De Vicenzo and keeping the Argentinian's scorecard, had erroneously marked De Vicenzo for a par on the 17th instead of a birdie. In his disgust over the closing bogey, De Vicenzo scanned his scorecard quickly and signed it.

"All my life, I no make so many mistake on the golf course," De Vicenzo has said. "Next day I forget. I have chance to recover.

"This mistake, no chance to recover."

Goalby, unaware of the drama that had unfolded 30 minutes before just off the 18th green, tapped in for par on the last hole and walked off the green, preparing himself for a playoff.

"I didn't really know what happened until Doc (Cary) Middlecoff, a great player of the time who was doing TV for CBS, came up and said, 'Bob, I think you won this tournament' as I was walking away from the 18th green. I said, 'What are you talking about?' And he said, 'Roberto had a problem.' "

The signing left De Vicenzo in second place, one stroke behind Goalby. A signed scorecard is deemed an official scorecard, regardless of the actual number of strokes taken.

De Vicenzo was left to utter one of golf's enduring quotations, "Oh, what a stupid I am."

In a way, both men became victims that day.

"It was unfortunate for Roberto. Very, very unfortunate," says Goalby. "But it was equally unfortunate for me that I didn't get credit for winning one of the great championships of the world.

"I shot 277, the fourth lowest score that had ever been shot (at Augusta). . . . (But) I sort of came out like a bad guy."

Both men have flourished since their date with the mistake. Goalby has prospered on the Seniors Tour and as a television commentator. De Vicenzo won $59,000 on the Seniors Tour a year ago and still shuttles from continent to continent playing as much golf as his health and family allow.

De Vicenzo has come to realize that green jacket in '68 just didn't fit him.

"You can't cry all your life," he says. "It just happen."

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