"Don't you know anything, kid? Titanic's got only pocket money bet with Hagen. His real dough is sprinkled all over the gallery. That's where the action is."
"Yeah, but he's 3 down and sinking fast, fella." I was still whispering so as not to disturb the players. "Even Titanic Thompson isn't going to get rich betting on that."
"Listen, genius, he didn't bet on that. He told everyone here before Hagen even showed up that he'd be late. Won $200 and change right there. Some of these idiots actually thought Hagen would get himself to the church on time." He chuckled.
"Then Ti said Haig would offer him strokes. That's $500, clean as a whistle. Then"—the caddie was almost hysterical now—"then he tells 'em all he'll play Hagen straight up. I mean, they went nuts. Must've thought old Titanic Thompson rotted his freakin' brains out drinking bathtub gin. They figured he'd be tying his own noose if he played Hagen on the level. So they bet he'd never play Hagen even up. Picked up about $300 lickety-split by stiffing your guy on the strokes."
My jaw was down.
"What these folks can't get straight," he continued, "is that old Ti ain't really playing Hagen at all. He's playing them."
And now he had to play the 8th, the hardest hole on the course. It is a massive par-4 that forces players to fire their second shots over a deep chasm across Stillwater Cove. It was here that Thompson started to come back. He caught the fairway with his drive, then rifled a brassie onto the green and made the putt. He won against Haig's bogey, 3 versus 5. "He wasted that birdie," Haig told me as we departed the green.
At the 9th, a 450-yard par-4 that parallels the Pacific and is a sheer's nightmare from start to finish, Thompson won with a par as Haig played the entire hole from the right rough. After nine, Haig was only one hole ahead.
The back nine starts along the ocean, and then, after one hole, it goes back into Del Monte Forest. Hagen won the 10th with a 4. Away from the pounding surf, the golf grew quieter, and Hagen slowly numbed Thompson with a series of scrambling pars. Titanic never got any closer to him than 2 down.
At the 17th tee Haig stood dormie. He had the honor, having kept it since the 10th. But he was uneasy, for he knew that even though Titanic was 2 down with two to play, he was a dangerous adversary, especially if he could force the action to the final tee, for on Pebble's legendary ocean-side par-5 closer, anything could happen.