Now Nicklaus had reeled in Ballesteros but not Kite, who would birdie 15. That made it a three-way tie at eight under par. Meanwhile, Norman had quickly recovered from a double bogey at 10 and was sitting two back.
Nicklaus tried to get ready to drive at the par-4 17th but had a small problem. "I kept getting tears in my eyes," he said. "It happened to me once at Baltusrol. But here, it happened four or five times. I had to say to myself, Hey, you've got some golf left to play."
After driving into the left rough he hit a 125-yard pitching wedge to 11 feet. He drained the putt. "Dead center." Nicklaus leads. One up over Ballesteros and Kite.
Moments later, Ballesteros, shaken, three-putted at 17 for bogey, but Kite made par from the back of the green and Norman was stormin', too, making birdies at 15 and 16. Still one up, now over Kite and Norman.
Eighteen surrendered without incident for Nicklaus. He hit onto the front of the tiered green, almost precisely where the pin traditionally has been set for the final round. This year, the green had been redesigned, and the pin was now set on the back level. He nearly holed out from 40 feet, dropped it in for the par, then hugged Jackie.
"I was getting choked up with all the people cheering on every hole. I was so proud of him," Jackie said. "Finally, when he putted out on 18 I told him, 'Dad, I loved seeing you play today. It was the thrill of my lifetime. I mean, that was awesome.' "
Father and son walked arm in arm to the scorer's tent and then to the Bob Jones cabin to wait and see.
What they saw first was Kite at 18 lining up a 12-foot putt for birdie and a tie. Would Kite, so long denied, finally have a chance at a major?
"I made that putt," said Kite. "It just didn't go in. Honest to God...I made it so many times in the practice rounds—seven or eight times—and it never broke left once." It broke left. Still one up.
Now the only obstacle between Nicklaus and perhaps his most remarkable major of all was Norman.