PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Mize still has goals to achieve in 36th Masters
April 10, 2019
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- April 10, 2019
- Larry Mize is playing in his 31st Masters as a past champion. (Getty Images)
When the azaleas ready for bloom on the grounds at Augusta National, Larry Mize’s cell phone begins to ring more often.
March and April are not a bad time to be Mize, 60, a regular player on PGA TOUR Champions. Media reach out to him to discuss his improbable 1987 Masters victory, the one in which the Augusta native beat Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in a playoff.
It was Mize’s fourth start in golf’s first major. He actually had played pretty well, too; he tied for 11th in his debut in 1984 and tied for 16th in 1986.
Still, he wasn’t exactly a trendy pick to join the pantheon of golfing greats to don the green jacket. Consider this: The four winners previous to Mize were Jack Nicklaus, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crenshaw and Ballesteros. Nicklaus, fresh off his own improbable victory in ’86 at the age of 46 (the last of his record 18 majors), helped Mize slip into his green jacket, as is the Masters custom.
By now anyone who has seen the color green and claims to follow golf knows how Mize won. His 140-foot chip-in from well right of the green on the par-4 11th, the second playoff hole after Ballesteros had eliminated himself with a three-putt, touched off a deafening roar and stuck a giant gaff in the “Great White Shark.” No less than Nicklaus called it one of the greatest shots of all time. Fellow PGA TOUR Champions player Mark Calcavecchia called it a “one-in-a-million chip shot.”
The unassuming Mize, who worked the manual scoreboards during the Masters as a youth, said the chip and the victory weren’t the first things that came to mind as he drove down Magnolia Lane on Sunday to begin preparation for his 36th consecutive Masters.
“It’s not the first thing because I’m trying to get prepared to play this beast of a golf course,” Mize said Tuesday from the grounds during a practice-round rain delay. “I’m working on pretty much everything. I need to drive it better, and my iron play is inconsistent. I probably feel best about my short game right now. …
“But obviously I have tremendous memories here. Just the fact I get to come back here every year and play in the tournament is so special. It’s really an unbelievable week for me.”
Winners get a lifetime exemption. Mize will be playing in his 31st as a past champion. He has made the cut three times since 2014; he says that’s a realistic goal for him and that he’d always like to finish better than he did the last time he played on the weekend.
His other big goal this week is to claim a crystal on Wednesday in the par-3 contest.
“As long as I’ve been playing in the par 3 contest I’ve never won one,” said Mize, who said a crystal is awarded not only to each player who records a hole-in-one during Wednesday’s event but to whoever is closest to the pin on any given hole if there are no holes-in-one. “It’s a wonderful, fun par 3 layout to play. It’s a time to joke around and play with your buddies. Bernhard Langer and Martin Kaymer and I are playing. We normally play together. It’s just a fun event.
“I’ll be going hard to try to get a piece of crystal.”
Mize didn’t have to go hard for a spot at the table on Tuesday night for the past champions dinner. The reigning champion picks the menu for the affair. Only past champions and the chairman of Augusta National are allowed to attend.
“It doesn’t get much better than that as far as golf goes, to be with those great champions,” Mize said. “It’s a very special night.”
Mize listed a few of the more memorable dinners – shepherd’s pie from Nick Faldo, Texas barbecue from Crenshaw, Thai food from Vijay Singh – saying “the chefs here at Augusta National are top notch.”
Mize’s menu consisted of steak, potatoes and green beans (so he probably was happy with Patrick Reed’s choice of a bone-in ribeye on Tuesday night).
“I just wanted to serve something I thought everyone would like,” Mize said. “And of course, being from Georgia, we had peach cobbler for dessert.
“The most interesting dinner was Sandy Lyle’s when he had the haggis. I’ve had the champions dinner every year but that one. I did pass on that one.”