Professional golf is the only sport that demands players to keep a tally of their own score – at the end of the round, they sign their score card and submit it to officials. If the score card is incorrect, it is dire consequences. One of the most famous gaffes in pro golf history occurred in 1968 when Roberto De Vicenzo (pictured above – left), who passed away this week at the age of 94, signed an incorrect score at the Masters and was disqualified for a playoff title round.
De Vicenzo, who won more than 230 tournaments including the British Open, was paired with Tommy Aaron (pictured below) at Augusta National – Aaron was keeping De Vicenzo’s score, and De Vicenzo was keeping Aaron’s score. Aaron mistakenly gave De Vicenzo a 4 on the 17th hole, when, in fact, he had a 3.
The atmosphere at the 18th hole was chaotic: Aaron wanted to warn De Vicenzo to check the score card, but before he could, De Vicenzo had already signed it – so instead of tying Bob Goalby for the lead (forcing a playoff the next day for the championship) De Vicenzo was disqualified. The scoring error gave Goalby the championship.
His plight garnered sympathy from around the golfing world, where he was already a popular fan and player favorite: it burnished his iconic status.
There is a final irony to this story which many people do not know. In 1973, Aaron was playing the 4th round of the Masters when his partner, Johnny Miller, recorded an incorrect score on Aaron’s card. Aaron, perhaps as mindful of scoring mistakes as any golfer on the planet, caught Miller’s error and corrected the score card.
It is said that baseball is a game of inches – golf is a game of many things, including good math and deliberate signatures.
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