Fifty years later and Charles Coody is still surprised he knocked off Jack Nicklaus in the 1971 Masters.
“If you asked anybody in the golfing world on that particular Sunday, April 11, 1971, if Jack Nicklaus and Charles Coody are tied, who’s going to win? Anyone who said Charles Coody would probably be taken to Bellevue to get checked out,” Coody said, chuckling. “I’ll be realistic in my answer. I would’ve said Jack, too, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try.”
Coody tried all right, and prevailed for a two-stroke victory over Nicklaus and Johnny Miller. That marked the biggest victory — and only major championship — in Coody’s career.
In a recent interview, the 83-year-old Coody who is still working out at Diamondback Golf Club in Abilene joked that it feels like 50 years ago physically but not mentally. The former TCU golfer still remembers everything that happened during that tournament, especially the final holes and how his collapse late at the 1969 Masters played a part in securing a victory two years later.
In 1969, Coody had a one-shot lead with three holes left following a birdie on the par-5 15th. On the par-3 16th, though, Coody went back-and-forth between clubs. He ultimately decided to hit a 5-iron instead of a 6-iron and ended up going long into a back bunker. That started a bogey string as he finished his round with three straight bogeys and finished two shots back of winner George Archer.
Two years later, facing similar conditions, Coody opted for the 6-iron and knocked it to within 12 feet. He made the birdie putt en route to his victory.
“The tee shot on No. 16 was deja vu,” Coody said. “The time of day. The shadows. The weather. The pin placement. Everything was exactly the same. I doubted myself in ‘69, changed clubs, wasn’t totally committed to the shot and made a very poor swing to start a bogey string which killed me.
“Then in ‘71, with it being like groundhog day again, I knew I was going to hit a 6-iron. That was the big assist from ‘69 is just the experience from that hole. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.”
Fortunately for Coody, Nicklaus never got going down the stretch. Given his length at the time, Nicklaus usually took advantage of the par-5s Nos. 13 and 15 but settled for pars on both. Nicklaus shot an even-par 72, going 1-over on the back nine.
Nicklaus went on to win the Masters the following year in 1972, one of his six victories at Augusta National.