"But if you're surrounded by more than just a moment, you have some ups and downs, don't you? Don't the bad spells overcome the good ones sometimes?"
"I suppose so, but you gotta understand this is different. Here, you know it's somehow gonna work itself out. It just gives you confidence, patience, a gentle sort of feeling. In this place, even if I hit it crooked, I know I have some weapons left. A hot little putter can give a man a lifetime of patience, you know what I'm saying? I have no worries about what's gonna happen. I know I've got what I need to do the job."
"But wouldn't you like a little bit of uncertainty? A little bit of excitement?"
"If it's excitement you want," Haig said, "just match me up at my best against Jones at his best. Or match me up against the Babe at her best. Sometimes we just play on through the night, one great shot topping another, birdie matching birdie, eagle for eagle. You know how it goes. Anything you can do, I can do better. Oh, someone wins in the end." He looked around. "What I mean is, we beat each other's brains out, but who can complain when everyone plays his best?"
"What about equipment?" I pressed him. "I mean, doesn't the modern stuff give an edge to somebody like Tony Lema? He gets to play with steel clubs, and you and Jones arc using hickory."
"The first time Lema asked me to tour the Old Course with him, we used his steel shafts. His course, his time. Rules are rules, even for guys like me. Then I said, 'Tony boy, how's about you coming down to my place for a rematch?' He said, 'I'm on,' and out he came with those steel shafts. Had to put 'em away and play with hickory, and his pants got heavy on him. Spent the rest of the day worrying if the blasted shaft was gonna break in half. I left him talking to his fool self with his pockets picked clean as a whistle."
So that's how they do it. They can exchange course privileges—after all, Haig did say that everything was reciprocal—but they have to use the clubs and balls of the host's era. And then they get to see what everybody can do in their time.
Hagen put his arm around my shoulder and said in a whisper, "I've got something working in a little while. Cool your heels for 45 minutes, then meet me out back."
The Haig was waiting as promised. He was sitting at a portable garden table, next to a long black Austro-Daimler limousine, eating breakfast like an aristocrat. A liveried chauffeur, who must double as his valet, attended to his every need.
"What is all this?" I asked, admiring the linen tablecloth and the sterling silver radiating in the sunlight. "I thought you were taking me to watch you play."