The figures, while scintillating, told only part of the 42nd Masters story. The dull part.
A 34-30 - 64, equaling the course record, provided the greatest winning surge in the history of the tournament and lifted Gary Player from a four-way tie for 10th place, seven strokes off the lead, to his third victory here yesterday.
Rarely, if ever, have the cheers and the groans reverbarated over the back nine of old Augusta National on closing day as they did while Player, third-round leader Hubert Green, defending champion Tom Watson and longshot Rod Funseth staged one of the most thrilling finishes in the history of the sport.
Player came in at 277, 11 strokes under par, to overtake his three closest rivals by one shot. A 15-foot downhill putt for a birdie - his ninth of the round - on the finale hole gave Player his winning margin. He had to watch for nearly 45 minutes, however, as first Watson, then Funseth and Green came close but were unable to tie him - Green blowing a three-foot putt on the 72nd green that would have forced a playoff.
'I'm sure glad there wasn't a playoff," Player declared. "I've lost 17 of them around the world (his extra-session record on the PGA Tour is 3-11)."
But if Player was apologetic about his playoff record, he used yesterday's success to tell the world he was tired of hearing he is through at 41, as many observers hape suggested.
'I'm mighty proud of my international record.It's been outstanding, and it still is excellent, and growing," he declared. "I'd like to see Jack Nicklaus, or anyone else, travel around the world, playing in tournaments like I have, and compile a better record then I have."
Player has won three British Opens, two PGAs, one U.S. Open three Masters, plus major events in Australia, Brazil, South Africa and England. "I've won all over the damn world, for many years," he repeated, "but some people seem to think if you don't win in the United States it doesn't count, and I've been playing only about 15 tournaments a year here in recent years."
Nicklaus, with five, and Arnold Palmer, with four victories, are the only players to have won the Masters more. Player and Sam Snead are tied with three.
The gentlemen from Johannesburg had a little late help, however, in yesterday's torrid windup. Green, after leading by three strokes over Watson and Funseth at the start of play, came to the last hole needing a birdie to tie. It looked like he would get it, after he hit an eight-iron shot to within three feet of the pin.
"I talked to the caddy about it, thought ti might be right-center, got over it - and then backed off when I heard the voice of a friend who was on CBS Radio," Green explained. "I have no excuses. I hit it firm."
Too hard, it appeared. The ball went to the low side of the hole and Green, the 1977 U.S. Open champion, was denied a chance for a major victory he deeply desired. Poor long-iron play around "Amen Corner" repeatedly had him scurrying to save par. Only the par-5 holes kept his game from falling apart. All four of his birdies were on these holes.
Watson went to the 72nd tee tied with Player at 11 under par. It appeared as though Tom Tremendous was going to blow the tournament apart when he eagled the 13th, but three putts from six feet out on the next hole probably cost him the victory.
"I hit a bad drive on the 18th, and the iron from the tree line didn't help things," Watson said. "I got up to 10 feet past on the third shot (through a corridor of fans lining the left side of the green), and, frankly, I was confident about the putt. I was confident about what it would do, how it would break. And it did, I just didn't get it there."
Watson missed on the high side.
Funseth also had a chance to tie Player on the last hole.
"I was 135 yards out, after my drive, but the ball was sitting down in the grass," he recalled. "I hit a seven-iron, trying to give it plenty of spin, but I hit too hard, nearly 20 feet past."
But Funseth, who has not won a tournament in five years, gave it a heck of a try. The putt trickled down hill and lined up perfectly with the cup - one inch to the right.
"I was watching them all, sweating, and I was choking a little," Player acknowledged. "But that's golf. I've lost some close one here myself. I was the runner-up in the Masters three times.
"In 1962, when I was defending my title, I started way behind Arnie (Palmer), caught him, then lost to Palmer in a playoff (that also included Dow Finsterwald). Then, in 1970, I came to the last hole needing a par to tie Billy Casper and Gene Little. Then put was nicely inside the one I made today, but I don't get it."
Player's second triumph here occurred in 1974, when he posted 278, including a 66 on the third round.
"I played as well here Friday and Saturday as I did today," the champion noted, "But I made the putts. I had a 30-footer on th fourth a 12-footer on nine, a 25-footer on 10 and a 15-footer on 12. Then, on 13, my 12-foot putt went to the edge (of the cup) and stopped) for eagle. On 15 two putted from 50 feet, On 16 I hit a five-iron 14 feet past the pin, but got the birdie, and then, of course, there was the one on-18."
Player is listed in the PGA Tour book as being 41, born Nov. 1, 1936. He insists his birth year was 1935, which would make him 42, and the oldest Masters winner, instead of Sam Snead, who was one month shy of 42 when he won here for third time in 1954.
What is clear is that Player's rally yesterday was the finest ever fashioned at Augusta National. Jack Burke came from eight shots behind to overtake Ken Venturi in 1956, for the record, but it wasn't Burke's fault. He carded a 71 to Venturi's 80.
Player has no such assistance yesterday. He did it on his own, the hard way, when nearly everybody had given up on his chances of getting a third green jacket.