GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Tommy Aaron was worried about his swing after his warmup before the opening round of the 1973 Masters Tournament.
He had no coach to help diagnose and help correct the problem, so Aaron had to figure it out all on his own.
"I'm warming up before the round, it's kind of a cold morning, and I'm hitting shots that are going this way, that way, this way, that way, and I couldn't seem to fix it," he said. "I try to figure it out but can't quite do it. So, I walked to the first tee and ended up shooting a 68 on the first day."
As they say, the rest is history.
When the 2023 Masters Tournament in Augusta tees off next week, it will mark the 50th anniversary of Aaron's magical tournament win. Aaron beat J.C. Snead by one stroke to become the first Georgia native to win the Masters Tournament.
The Gainesville native spoke in front of a crowd of 150-plus at Chattahoochee Golf Club on Tuesday, all there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the victory. The City of Gainesville proclaimed the day, March 28, as Tommy Aaron Day.
He took the audience through his career with stories about his high school days playing golf for Bobby Gruhn at Gainesville High, winning SEC championships in golf at Florida, and rising to the top of professional golf as Masters Champion.
Heading into the 1973 Masters, Aaron said he hadn't had a chance to work on his game much because his wife, Jimmye, had surgery a few weeks before the tournament.
"She had surgery and developed complications from it, so I didn't have much time to play," he said. "So, she's out of the hospital and recovering, I go to Augusta, and I'm happy just to be playing and happy that she's recovering. There was nothing in my practice round that I did that led me to believe something special might happen."
Aaron's Day 1 68 put him atop the leaderboard, but over the next two rounds, he found himself down four strokes off the lead heading to Sunday.
"73 on the second day was ok, but 74 on the third day was not good," he said. "I shot 40 on the front 9. If I had kept going like that, I would have gotten into the 80s easily, and I would have played my way out of the tournament. But somehow, I shot a 34 on the back and kept myself in the tournament, four shots behind."
A change in mindset during warmups before the final round essentially fixed Aaron's swing and led to a blistering 68 on the final day of the tournament, pushing him back to the top of the leaderboard.
"I was out there warming up again, trying to figure out my swing and fix it," he said. "I started swinging, making no effort to hit the ball, just swinging without effort, and all of sudden, the ball started going wherever I wanted it, and it actually went just as far."
But JC Snead was breathing down Aaron's neck as he approached the 18th hole, needing to sink a long putt to force a playoff round the next day.
As Aaron describes it, he was sitting in Butler Cabin, mentally preparing for a grueling 18-hole playoff round.
"On the last hole, he [Snead] had this long put going down the hill, and I'm thinking he'll probably make this putt; I've seen it happen too often," Aaron said. "I've got to take the attitude that he's going to make this putt, and I've got to get mentally ready for an 18-hole playoff tomorrow. So I'm sitting there getting ready for this; he's probably going to make it. Well, he missed it, so then I thought, well, I guess I won The Masters."