Finsterwald and a very groggy Palmer teamed up to play Ben Hogan and Jackie Burke. Thanks to Finsterwalds brilliant play, the duo won $55 each. Arnold, as would be expected, could just barely find the energy to get around the hilly elevations of Augusta National.
An excerpt from Palmers autobiography, A Golfers Life, tells what happened next: Hogan said to Burke, loud enough for the nearby Palmer to hear, Tell me something, Jackie. How the hell did Palmer get an invitation to the Masters?
Palmer, though unseen, was furious. That really stung me, he said. And it stung him enough to go out and win the tournament.
Palmer opened the tournament with an under-par round of 70, followed by a 73 which placed him in a tie for sixth. Saturday he zoomed into a first-place tie with Sam Snead when Arnie recorded a 68.
Snead shot a 79 Sunday and was never a threat. However, several other players were whistling shots near the flags, and by the time he reached the 12th hole, Palmer was in a tight battle.
Heavy rains Saturday night had caused tournament officials to institute a local rule for the day: balls which plugged in the soft turf were to be lifted and replaced without penalty.
Palmer, playing the par-3 hole, found himself facing just such a situation. His shot found the steeply sloped area in back of the hole, plugging into the hill.
Palmer requested relief from the official on the hole ' but was denied. Palmer was noticeably angry. He dug out the ball with a swipe of his pitching wedge, chipped the ball onto the putting surface, and made a 5.
But he then replayed the ball as he felt the rules allowed. He dropped, chipped and sunk the putt for a 3.
Palmer would leave the hole for the officials to decide. On the very next hole he saw a green cart approaching, carrying the unmistakable figure of Bobby Jones. Arnies heart leaped to his throat, but he continued playing, hitting a beautifully arched 3-wood onto the green of the par-5 13th. He sunk the eagle putt from 25 feet, then carefully waited to see if Jones had a message for him. Jones didnt ' he was merely watching the action.
Palmer then parred No. 14. And on 15 he got the news ' the rules committee had decided to record his score as a 3 on No. 12 instead of a 5.
Instead of being tied for the lead, he now led by two shots. Arnie parred 16 and 17, then coaxed in a birdie at the 72nd hole for a score of 73. He had one-putted six greens. Now there was nothing he could do but wait for the 12 players still on the course.
Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins both made strong finishes, and as they stood on the final tee, Palmer was ahead by one shot. And both reached the green with good birdie chances ' each lying about 12 feet from the cup.
But both missed their putts, and the 28-year-old became the second-youngest golfer to win the trophy, following only a 25-year-old Byron Nelson. Nelsons age has since surpassed by both Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods.
An interesting sidelight is that Arnolds wife, the late Winnie Palmer, was entrusted with the task of making out the check for Palmers caddy, Nathaniel (Ironman) Avery. In the confusion of the victory celebration, she wrote the check for $1,400 ' she thought. But she mistakenly added one more zero, and the amount read $14,000. She was able to retrieve it before Avery left the premises. The $14,000 was more than Palmers first-place prize of $11,250.