Ed Sneed Looks Back on a Near Miss

On Sunday, April 15, 1979, Ed Sneed was about to win the Masters. He was leading by three shots with three holes to go. Then, suddenly, the game became as cruel as it can possibly be.

Sneed, who had started the day ahead by five, bogeyed 16, 17 and 18 — his par putt on 18 hung on the lip — then lost on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to Fuzzy Zoeller. Sneed, who is now 74 and finished his career with four tour victories, never came close again to winning a major. He left in 1985 to go into the investment business.

In a recent interview, Sneed reflected on that time. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

How often does someone bring up 1979?

For the first five years, there would be articles in magazines the week or month before the Masters. Every year, since that Masters, there’s been at least one or two guys who have called me. This year, there seems to be more focus on it, and I’ve had quite a few calls because it’s the 40th anniversary.

How did losing that tournament affect your life?

I probably would have played the tour longer. I don’t think it made me basically a different person. I’ve often said, in my reaction, nobody died. I had a chance to win a big golf tournament, and I didn’t. It did have an impact, but at the same time, I never felt like it destroyed me in any way.

Watching the final round recently, it looked as if there were not any shots on the last three holes you’d want to take back except the approach on 18, which missed the green. Is that right?

That’s right. I always heard, “Well, you hit to the right at 16.” I didn’t hit to the right at 16. I hit a draw. Why the ball didn’t bounce to the left, I don’t know. At 17, [where his approach finished a few yards over the green] I discovered the next year I had the wrong yardage by three or four yards.

You thought the putt on 18 was in, didn’t you?

I thought the putt would just barely move to the right. So, I hit the ball at the left side of the cup. And when it was about two feet away, it looked like it had moved a little bit toward the hole. I thought it was going right in, and then it hung on the left. It looked like a quarter of the ball was hanging over the hole.

The next year, I was playing a practice round on Wednesday afternoon after the Par 3 tournament. I was by myself. I started at 10. At the 11th green, Hord Hardin, the [acting] tournament chairman, told me, “Ed, that was tough luck last year, but we feel that you waited about 12 seconds to tap it in, and under the rules you only had 10, and if it had fallen in, we would have been in a dilemma, and we probably would have had to penalize you a stroke.”

You realized pretty soon that how you’d respond to the loss would be a test.

I ended up going to the Tallahassee Open the next week, and one of the press guys sat down next to me, and this is something I’ve always held on to. When I got back to the house in Augusta that night, my girls at the time were 4½ years old and barely 2. My 4½-year-old had been watching television. When I walked in, she came running up to me and said, “Daddy, you won, you won.” I realized that it didn’t make any difference to them. I was still their dad.

When people ask me, “Do I think about it?” I sure do. Not as much now as I used to. I don’t dwell on it. I’ve never felt like, “Why me?” You look at things that go on around the world, and other people’s circumstances. What did I do? I missed a putt to win the Masters. If that’s the worst thing that happened to me, even in just golf, so be it.

Post Comment

ten − six =