AUGUSTA, GA — AUGUSTA, Ga. -- His dip into the lake last year should hav been enough to finish Raymond Floyd as a serious competitor at the Masters.
He prophesied as much last year when he said he might have blown his last chance to win on his favorite course.
As if he were too old, Floyd gave away a four-stroke lead with six holes to play. It was on hole No. 11, the second playoff hole, that his final demise came. He hit his approach shot into the lake left of the hole. It should have been the drowning of Floyd's Masters career.
Nick Faldo accepted his second consecutive green jacket. Floyd tried to pick up the pieces of his game.
"I've never felt like this," he said afterward, almost in tears. "I've never had anything affect me like this has. How can you simulate being in this situation? How do you imagine losing the tournament? Believe me, it's the most devastating thing to happen to me in my career."
That should have been enough to sink Floyd into the category of the Tommy Aarons and Billy Caspers, who come here for the conviviality of it all. At 49, which Floyd will turn in September, he should be enjoying Augusta National, not trying to solve it.
But there he was again Friday, charging up the back nine, sharing the lead for a moment and finishing the day with a 68. For the tournament, he's five under, three strokes off the pace set by Tom Watson's blazing back nine.
Believe Floyd when he says the past was devastating. And nothing ever has affected him like it did. But Floyd came back to Augusta this week with the same preparation he always uses. He took December off, started easing back into a schedule in January and used February and March to dive back into golf. All along, he used Augusta as motivation.
"Subconsciously, I peak for this tournament because I enjoy it more than any other," he said. "It's my favorite place, my favorite tournament, my favorite course. When I'm getting ready to play, there's a lot of thought about this place that goes into it."
This time it could have been thoughts about No. 16 last year when his putt hit John Huston's ball marker during the final round and cost him a stroke. The thoughts could have been over No. 17 when he bogeyed to fall into a tie with Faldo. He could have been thinking about the disaster at No. 11.
There was so much history to cloud Floyd's mind. And history is the biggest obstacle at Augusta. It's not the creek in front of No. 12 so much as it is the thoughts of what has happened in the past.
Friday, Floyd faced his own history without so much as a twitch. He breezed through Amen Corner, continually moving up on the leaders. When he birdied 16, he was back where he was for most of the last three rounds during the 1990 Masters -- in the lead.
To the fans, it was a miracle. They seem to have adopted Floyd after his crash last year.
To Floyd, he was back where he belonged.
"Everybody thought that it would be rough for me to come back here and face all this," he said. "But I love to come back here. Sure, I'll always remember what happened here, but the hurt is gone."
And if there is a little pain, it can be a valuable teacher here.
"This place is everything rolled into a package: the course; the history; the attention," said Hale Irwin. "That's why the guys with more battle scars than others rise to the top."
Like Scott Hoch, who lost in 1989, and Greg Norman, whose curse continued with another missed cut Friday, Floyd also has a hideous scar.
Only this one hasn't been paining him lately.