Forsman done once Masters struck 12

JOHN EISENBERG

April 12, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Finding himself in a tie for second place Saturday night after shooting a careening, exhausting 73 in the third round of The Masters, the very obscure Dan Forsman attempted to put into words the feeling of contending for a major title: "One minute you're bleeding, the next minute you're hemorrhaging, the next minute you're painting the Mona Lisa."

What a poet, huh? He meant merely that it was an emotional roller coaster, of course, but his description was such a fabulous burst of bizarro that it actually was applauded by the gruff boys in the interview room. The lanky, amiable Forsman grinned and admitted he had borrowed the line from Mac O'Grady, golf's lieutenant from outer space.

In any event, then it was yesterday and the final round was unrolling on a warm, blue afternoon, and Forsman seemed intent on proving himself only one-third correct. He was not bleeding. He was not hemorrhaging. He was very much at work on his personal Mona Lisa.

Through 11 holes, he was 3-under-par for the round and one stroke behind the leader, Bernhard Langer. Yes, someone named Dan Forsman was in the middle of the Masters' famous Sunday hunt, and millions of TV viewers were asking the same question: "Who?"

As Forsman himself later put it, "I mean, Dan Forsman?"

He was a 34-year-old who had accomplished nothing you'd ever heard about until last year, when he suddenly finished 10th on the earnings list. Such players never win The Masters, of course, no matter how much they win in Florida. You can look it up. The tournament comes with quality-control regulations.

Yet there was Forsman parring No. 11 from a bunker, a splendid escape in front of the enormous gallery at Amen Corner. As Forsman walked toward the tee at the par-3 12th, tossing blades of grass in the air to check the wind, the gallery stood and cheered, the noise growing. What else could Forsman think except that finally, at long last, he had arrived.

"My spine tingled," he said later. "That ovation was beyond anything I can explain. The circumstances, the pressure, the aura of the tournament. There I was contending [in The Masters] on Sunday afternoon. I got caught up in it. I shouldn't have, but it just touched me so strongly."

He turned away to The Masters' toughest shot: Over the water to the 12th green. How many times had the tournament been won and lost there? Seve Ballesteros and Tom Watson were among the many to hit famous balls into the pond in years past. Fred Couples' ball stopped on the bank last year, defying gravity and winning the tournament.

Forsman had tried his best to prepare for the shot. He had rented a Jack Nicklaus video discussing the hole, its history and how to play it. He had watched videotape of player after player getting wet.

He knew he should play a safe shot, aim for the fat middle of the green, not the water-guarded corner inlet where the pin was planted. He pulled out a 7-iron and aimed safe. Involuntarily, he pushed the shot toward the flag.

"It's like my mind just overruled and said this was an easy shot I should be able to make," Forsman said, "and I hit it there. I knew it was in the water as soon as I swung. I sliced it, hit it way up in the air and into the wind."

It was a classic Masters moment, underscoring the inherent irony of Augusta National. The shot that looks so easy is the hardest. The hole that looks so pretty is the trap.

"I didn't even look at the pin when I hit, just hit over the [safe] bunker," said Forsman's old-pro playing partner, Lanny Wadkins, who parred easily. "That was just Dan's inexperience. You can't win the tournament on that hole, but you can lose it."

Forsman did. His ball landed in the pond with a plop. The sound of Forsman bleeding.

Then he took a drop, grabbed his pitching wedge and . . . hit another ball in the pond. The sight of Forsman hemorrhaging.

His quadruple-bogey was a mustache on the Mona Lisa if ever there was one.

"All I could think," Forsman said, "was that I had sat in my living room watching on TV and felt the pain of all the other players who'd done the same thing, and now I was living it."

Langer won by four strokes. Forsman wound up seven back and came into the interview room where he had been applauded the day before.

"What did you think when you hit it in the water?" someone asked.

"I wished," Forsman said, "that I could have taken a mulligan."

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