Casper Out After 106

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The ashen sky loomed ominously overhead as Billy Casper lumbered slowly up the hill for the final tee shot of a long, long day.
 
Tilting over carefully, he stuck a tee in the luscious grass and struck the ball straight down the middle of the fairway at Augusta National.
 
'I always get this thing figured out along around dark,' the portly, 73-year-old Casper quipped, managing the slightest of smiles.
 
Not long after that, it was mercifully over - the highest-scoring round in Masters history, turned in by a once-great player who just wanted to play 18 more holes at Augusta National.
 
The numbers on the scorecard added up to a 106.
 
That's right, 106!
 
Down at the public muni, Casper would've fit right in - especially when he hit five straight shots in the water at the par-3 16th before finally getting one on the green. He three-putted, of course, and took a 14.
 
For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, that's known as a undecuple-bogey.
 
Not that this was a day for worrying about details like bogeys, double-bogeys and undecuple-bogeys. Casper just wanted to take another stroll through Amen Corner, hear the roar of the crowd and let the memories wash over him.
 
'I remember I used to run into Tennessee Ernie Ford down there all the time,' Casper said, referring to the '50s TV personality.
 
He was pushed aside three years ago, getting one of those infamous letters from Masters chairman Hootie Johnson, who asked three aging ex-champions to give up their automatic spots in the field.
 
Casper took the snub graciously, fully aware that he had not made the cut since 1987 and hadn't been a contender since the 1970s. But a few months ago, he got the urge to play again.
 
He had fully recovered from hip replacement surgery and wanted his grandchildren to see him play at Augusta. So, he sent in his entry form and waited nervously to see what the response would be from tournament officials.
 
Nothing.
 
Game on.
 
'I had no concern about my score,' Casper said. 'I just wanted to be back out there, experiencing so many of the memories I had in the past.'
 
He hit his first shot into the rough 'and it didn't get much better from there.' One triple-bogey. Then another. By the time he crossed the Hogan Bridge on his way to the 12th green - just his third hole of the day - Casper already was having second thoughts about taking on such a monstrous course.
 
'I don't have any business being out here,' he told his caddie, Brian Taylor.
 
Things really fell apart at No. 16, the scenic, 170-yard hole known as 'Redbud.' Casper started off with a 9-wood, hooking his ball into the water. He walked slowly to the drop area, pulled out a 7-iron and took another shot. Water again. And again. And again. And again.
 
'I was sort of stumbling around, looking for balls,' Taylor said. 'He kept saying, 'There's another one in there.''
 
Over on the adjacent 15th green, Jim Furyk and Tom Watson stopped what they were doing and watched the carnage, shouting a few encouraging words toward Casper.
 
After switching to a 6-iron, Casper finally cleared the water and sent the gallery into a frenzy when the ball came to a stop on the green. After three-putting, he wasn't really sure what his score was, so he turned to playing partners Tommy Aaron (who was keeping Casper's card) and Charles Coody.
 
'They both said it was a 14,' Casper said, 'so I guess it was a 14.'
 
At the turn, everyone thought he might walk away, especially when he headed for the clubhouse. But he knew play was backed up, so he was merely looking for a chair on the veranda and some much-needed rest.
 
'This is going to slow my momentum down,' he joked to a security guard.
 
Casper managed only three pars all day and the 34-over score was easily the worst in Masters' history, eclipsing Charles Kunkle's 95 in 1956.
 
'I've got all the sympathy in the world,' Coody said. 'It could have been me. It could have been Tommy. It could have been anyone.'
 
But the 106 won't go in the record books - Casper didn't bother turning in his scorecard, walking off the course with it tucked in a back pocket.
 
'That's going in the scrapbook,' Casper said proudly.
 
Officially, he was listed as 'W-D' - withdrawn, supposedly because of a hip that began hurting during the par-3 tournament the previous day. But everyone knew that was a ruse. No one wanted such a proud champion to have such a high number beside his name.
 
'I sort of figured before I played that I wasn't going to sign it,' Casper said. 'I only wanted to play 18 and get it out of my system.'
 
Come Friday, he'll be on hand to watch everyone else play. He's finished with the Masters - this time for good.
 
'I'll be around,' Casper said. 'If the weather's nice, you can probably find me right up there under the umbrellas.'
 
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