Moody, with his 19-year-old daughter, Michelle, carrying his bag and helping him read putts, went into a trance and shot a Senior Open-record 64, including an eagle 3 on the amphitheaterlike 18th. On that hole he cut a five-wood over the water and rolled the ball 12 feet past the pin. "What can I say?" said Moody afterward. "I get that way sometimes, where I feel like I can put the ball anywhere I want."
Moody gave credit for the putts that fell to his long-shafted putter, which he has used since 1985 to cure "a terrible jerk" in his stroke. Would he prepare for Sunday's finale with a session on the practice range? He snorted in disbelief. "I haven't worked on any part of my game for a long time," he said with a grin. "I hit 10 or 15 balls in the morning, just to loosen up."
Loosening up was more of a psychological exercise for Beard, who described his play as "tentative" and seemed to regard his putter as a pipe bomb that might explode. His sudden return to prominence had caught him with a far-off look in his eye, as if he were a soldier wandering out of the jungle years after the war is over. "I'm mentally exhausted," he said on Saturday evening.
Beard's slide from golf's mountaintop to the slag heap of alcoholism and divorce was one of the saddest episodes of the '70s. The winner of 11 tournaments between 1963 and '71, he wound up as a club pro in Palm Desert, Calif., where he remarried and tried to put his life back together. "When I quit the Tour in 1981, my golf game and my personal life had dissipated; my confidence and self-esteem were at rock bottom," he said. "I was not just behind the 8 ball, I was under it."
Beard joined the Senior tour in May, after two years of uncertain soliloquy and a trial run on the Golden State mini-tour in California. "I picked up my Sunday bag and carried it like the other guys," he said. "And I loved it. But there was always the nagging feeling that I wasn't where I was supposed to be. I knew I wouldn't feel comfortable until I was with my peers again."
Beard proved on Sunday that he was where he belonged, but the tentativeness that worried him Saturday cost him the Open. On the front side Beard left four putts parked at the rim, three of them for birdies.
Moody, meanwhile, played the par 5's in three under. The victory was worth $80,000 and boosted Moody to the top of the senior money list, with $318,923. After getting a hug and kiss from Michelle, who was born five months after her father won the U.S. Open, Moody threw his arm around Beard and the two men walked off the 18th green to an ovation.
" Orville, with that new putter, could do well on the big Tour right now," Beard said of his reacquired peer. "But he's got a bird's nest on the ground in the Senior tour, so why should he?"
A bird's nest with a pretty nice nest egg to go with it.