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The Con Was On
Bo Links
April 24, 1995
In a new novel, legends Walter Hagen and Titanic Thompson square off in a match in which everything is a little shady
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April 24, 1995

The Con Was On

In a new novel, legends Walter Hagen and Titanic Thompson square off in a match in which everything is a little shady

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As we walked to the 2nd tee, I tapped Titanic's caddie on the shoulder. "How much has Thompson bet today?" I was dying to know what they were playing for. "Enough," he said.

"Enough. Let me put it to you this way, kid. He's already up over $1,000."

"No way!" I corrected him fast. "He lost the 1st hole, or can't you count?"

"You really don't get it, do you?" He walked off without saying anything more.

Hagen ripped two immensely long shots on the 2nd hole, a par-5, and got home in two. Thompson was in the fringe with his second, but a poor chip took him out of birdie range. Hagen two-putted. Two up.

"Junior," Haig said to me on the way to the 3rd tee, "I probably should have more dough riding against this sumbitch, but I'm content to just let you watch this. But don't get too google-eyed now, 'cause I can't keep this up for 18 holes. Just relax and enjoy the show."

For the next four holes I watched Hagen mug to the crowd. His technique was fascinating. He played quickly: the most interesting part was the way he hit the difficult shots so last. He scarcely took time to line up. Bui give him a knockdown shot, something simple, and he would take all day studying, posturing, gesturing, posing, thinking, changing clubs, doing anything he could to prolong the moment of uncertainty, the suspense, before he hit. The easier the shot, the longer he took. But the results were always the same. He knocked 'em stiff, one after another. And on the putting green he was as delicate and precise as a brain surgeon. He moved carefully. He saw it all. And he rarely missed.

Haig was four under after six holes, and Titanic, two under and 2 down, was hard on his heels. What a start!

The 7th hole at Pebble Beach is one of the most beautiful par-3s in the world. At only 107 yards, it requires a delicate shot that must land on a tiny, kidney-shaped green. To the right and back is the Pacific Ocean. Bunkers are everywhere.

Haig, who had the honor, played a seven-iron, keeping his ball underneath what little breeze there was. He punched it in there to about 10 feet. It was a solid shot, an eminently commercial play. Titanic had his work cut out for him.

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