Arnold Palmer played 2,718 competitive holes during The Masters at Augusta National.
The late golfing legend was still able to remember the biggest mistake he made on one of those holes, though and the lesson he learned was a good one for any athlete, young or old, and it doesn’t have anything to do with club grips or green reads.
You may have heard the story before, but Palmer told it during what CBS said was his final television interview — a Butler Cabin chat with Jim Nantz at the 2016 tournament that was aired before Sunday’s final round. Palmer died on Sept. 25 at age 87.
As Palmer told Nantz, he was leading Gary Player by one stroke heading into the final hole of the 1961 Masters. Par or better would give him his third green jacket in four years and make him the first back-to-back winner at Augusta National.
Palmer hit a decent drive on the famous par-4 and started down the fairway when he “subconsciously” went against one of his father’s famous rules: “Never count on a win until it’s done.”
Palmer had spotted an old friend, golf club manufacturer George Low, who waved him over to the ropes to revel in what he assumed would be a Palmer victory.
“He said ‘congratulations’ and I accepted it,” Palmer said in the interview. “And I knew better! I was positive that I shouldn’t be doing it but I did it anyway.”
Low’s praise was premature. Palmer’s second shot hit one of the greenside bunkers and Palmer ended up taking a double bogey as Player celebrated his first Masters championship after watching the proceedings on a TV in the clubhouse.
“That was the one time I did something I should have never done,” Palmer said. “I accepted victory without having victory. It taught me a lesson.
“I never did it after that, I can tell you that.”
But even though he’s gone, it was still nice to hear one of his everyday lessons.
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• Jay Hart: Will the Golf Gods finally smile upon Sergio Garcia?