"It doesn't look good when the boss hogs the workers," said Sam Snead.
"He's taken the strongest young senior we have," said Bob Goalby.
"I have some quiet reservations," said Palmer. "What if he wins? What if he has to call for a ruling?"
Beman said he understood the objections to his playing, particularly from old-line seniors who might feel possessive of their tour. "I am not one of the original guys who played on tour for so many years," he says. "But I hope I've contributed to the game in other ways." As in attracting enough big corporate money to the senior tour to have made it very lucrative for former regular tour players, many of whom might otherwise be living in mobile-home parks and working on driving ranges.
"People don't always think right when it comes to Deane," said Barber. "It's jealousy. What's he hurting by playing?"
"I think it makes golf look good to have a commissioner who is a good player," said Butch Baird. Chi Chi Rodriguez, meanwhile, took comfort from Beman's choice of Geiberger. "I want a smart commissioner," said Rodriguez. "If Deane had picked [86-year-old] Gene Sarazen, then I'd worry."
Beman spent time over the last few months honing his short but straight game. Still, when the bell rang, he was nervous. Before a throng surrounding the first tee at Onion Creek, Beman nearly topped his opening drive, sending it on a low line 13 5 yards off the tee. Geiberger laughed in an attempt to ease the embarrassment, but Beman didn't. "Gee, I hope he didn't take that laugh the wrong way," said Geiberger ruefully.
After the shaky start, Beman settled into playing solid if unspectacular golf. His short swing, which he begins with an abrupt lifting of the club rather than a smooth sweep, kept the ball in play but rarely in birdie range. Once a great putter, Beman has lost some touch and looks unsettled, standing motionless over putts for more than 20 seconds before pulling the trigger. Though he garnered several pars for his team, he added only four birdies to Geiberger's total of 14 in their rounds of 67-67-63-67.
"I came here wanting to win the tournament with Al," he said, "but overall, I was reasonably pleased. The players made me feel very welcome. I only regret not holing a few more putts."
So did Palmer, who probably wishes he could carve his last win, an 11-shot victory at the Senior TPC in 1985, into 10 other one-stroke victories. It was left to Barber to try to bolster the old charger's fallen confidence. "I keep telling him, 'King, you're the King,' " said Mr. X. "Arnold gets down on himself. He says, 'I'm afraid to hit it.' I tell him, 'You've never been afraid of anything in your life. Go ahead and whack it.' "