Arnold Palmer Lost the 1961 Masters Because His Foolish Friend Jinxed Him on the Final Hole

Arnold Palmer is one of the most accomplished golfers to ever live. Over the course of his professional career, “The King” won 62 PGA Tour events and seven major championships, four of which came at Augusta National Golf Club at The Masters.

Only, it would’ve been five if not for an unfortunate jinx on the 72nd hole of the tournament in 1961.

Palmer needed just a par on the 18th hole to secure his second consecutive Masters victory, but a friendly encounter on his walk up the fairway caused him to lose focus and let the green jacket slip through his fingers.

Arnold Palmer double-bogeyed the 72nd hole to lose the 1961 Masters

Back in 1961, Arnold Palmer was the man to beat in the world of golf. The Latrobe, Pa. native was coming off a dominant year in which he won two major championships and eight total tournaments on the PGA Tour, and he rolled that momentum into the 1961 season with three wins in his first 10 starts. He finished worse than T8 just once during that span.

Palmer’s 11th start of the season came at Augusta National, where he had the chance to become the first back-to-back Masters champion with a win. The green jacket was halfway on his shoulders by the 72nd hole, as the seven-time major winner needed only a par to secure the victory.

After a decent drive to the left side of the fairway, Palmer pushed his approach shot to the par-4 18th hole in the right greenside bunker. Needing an up-and-down to win and a bogey to force a playoff, Palmer juiced his bunker shot over the green to the left side. His fourth shot grazed the hole on the left edge but trickled to 10 feet away. Palmer then needed to hole his bogey putt to keep his Masters hopes alive, but he couldn’t get it to drop.

The untimely double bogey dropped Palmer to 7 under par, while Gary Player was already in the clubhouse at 8 under. It was an agonizing loss for the golf legend, one he wished he handled much differently.

To make matters worse, Palmer, as the reigning champion, had to place the green jacket on Player’s shoulders just minutes after blowing the lead.

Arnold Palmer lost the 1961 Masters because his friend jinxed him on the final hole

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A golf tournament is never over until the final putt drops. We’ve seen it countless times over the years, and it’s what Palmer learned from his father when he first picked up the game. Palmer followed his father’s advice for most of his career, but not on that fateful day in 1961.

As Palmer walked to his ball on the 18th fairway, he spotted an old friend, George Low, behind the ropes. Instead of trudging on to hit his approach shot, the tournament leader uncharacteristically lost focus and walked over to say hello to Low. He told the story to CBS’ Jim Nantz in the Butler Cabin before his death in 2016.

“He said ‘congratulations’ and I accepted it,” Palmer told Nantz, per Yahoo News. “And I knew better! I was positive that I shouldn’t be doing it, but I did it anyway.”

The foolish mistake led to Palmer’s double bogey to blow the lead, a mistake he likely wouldn’t have made if he followed his father’s advice.

“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.”

Palmer still finished his career with four Masters victories, but five would’ve been much sweeter.