The recent Masters was so rich in incident that when one looks back on it after returning from the South, sending the laundry out and getting used to leather-soled shoes again, a dozen or more sidelights come to mind which deserve expanded comment.
For one thing, there was the extremely strong showing of the amateur contingent, no less than 10 of the 17 who started making the cut. Why the amateurs regularly do so much better in the Masters than in the Open is hard to understand. Their familiarity with the course and its less severe demands on tee-shot accuracy may account for this up to a point, but it certainly doesn't explain why they play so tentatively in the Open that they are frequently invisible.
For a second thing, there was the rousing tee-to-green shotmaking of Ben Hogan. Over the past six years Ben has emphasized placement and control and has rarely let out on his full shots. The Hogan we saw at Augusta was the old Hogan, really moving into his drives and bashing them great distances, with a little draw on the ball instead of the customary cultivated fade. One began to remember how long he used to be. Had this rejuvenation held true also for his work on and around the greens there would have been no limit to what he might have done. But it is hard to recall a player of his class ever putting so poorly, though perhaps Vardon did in his 50s. On his last two rounds Ben took 75 putts, not that this figure by itself conveys his thorough malaise on the greens. When he plays the other shots, Ben, these days, gets set before the ball with a total lack of waste motion, an almost singular ease and sureness; when he is putting, he is seldom able to get set comfortably, and only once or twice around is he able to draw his putter back from the ball without freezing over it for long, long seconds and then bolting into a timid, pushy stroke.
The main point about the 1960 Masters, however, was that it marked the coming of age of our young professionals. Since 1955 they have dominated the PGA tour. In the last three seasons they have broken through in the major championships. But this Masters was the first time that so many of the young stars played so consistently well that they actually succeeded in stamping their imprint on a prestige event. From the outset, Palmer, Venturi and Finsterwald—and later on, Casper—were the people to watch. As the tournament moved on, they became increasingly dynamic figures in the eyes of their huge galleries. For the first time spectators not only felt the force of their golf but of their personalities and began to view them as young men not at all devoid of glamour and excitement.
For a long while these Young Lions have been regarded as rather colorless performers. I suppose that anyone who followed after Hogan and Snead would be doomed to seem so. Apart from their magnificent talent, both Ben and Sam are by nature extraordinarily dramatic individuals—Sam, with his plenteous emotions on his sleeve, striding the fairways like some long-enthroned pharaoh when things are under control, at more troubled times riddled with disgust and trudging from hole to hole muttering an endless monologue of frustration; Ben, in his earlier years as burningly cold as dry ice, warmer since 1955 and more philosophic but still a classic study in massive concentration and intensity. Both are, in truth, a little more than life-size.
The young professional leaders—Palmer (30), Finsterwald (30), Souchak (32), Venturi (28), Casper (28), Rosburg (33) and Littler (29)—are a different breed. They have fire and ambition and deep veins of determination, but generally speaking their attitude is one of purposeful restraint. They want to be good golfers and not "characters," and they try to keep their feelings in check. They realize that if they stay pacific they will play better and, apart from this, on principle they are against emoting. For the most part, they are college men who from the first had a very clear idea of what they hoped to get from a career in golf. They were fortunate in hitting the pro ranks at the golden moment when purses were reaching new highs, and endorsements and promotions frequently doubled what they earned in prize money. Instead of being stampeded by their early success, they had the solidity to face up to it and to keep their sense of proportion. The thing that came hardest for them was gaining recognition as first-class golfers and not second-magnitude stars of the road company. They did not resent the longevity of Hogan and Snead and Middlecoff and the other established heroes, but they thought that they had earned a little room at the top for themselves, and it bothered them when the championships came around and they went almost unnoticed. Here they helped themselves most by coming through with much better golf in the major events, the tournaments that make the difference.
Each of these young professionals is quite individual in manner, but they share the common attitude of devoting their attention almost exclusively to playing their golf shots and not to entertaining the gallery. They hope you will like how they approach the game, but the concessions they make to their audiences—the most trying in all of sport since they are right on the playing field at your elbow—are seldom if ever brought on by the pursuit of popularity for itself. For example, the fact that Palmer frowns much less than he used to resulted from his wife's mentioning to him that golf, besides being a serious business, was also a sport in which extreme grimness was out of place; Arnold thought it over and quite agreed with her.
Their restraint does not make them colorless, far from it. Theirs is simply a different kind of color, similar, say, to that of Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges. It takes a little longer to appreciate this kind of athletic personality, but for anyone who is observant and knows sport, the pleasure they give is enormous and the flavor lasts.
When Ken Venturi, after going out in 31 in the opening round of the Masters, was stumbling home on the backside in 42, there was a strange and ghostly aura to his collapse: it closely paralleled what happened in 1956 when he took a 42 on the last nine and blew the tournament. Both times he started to slide when he missed a short putt on the 11th green. Both times he faltered badly on the 12th. Both times he seemed to right himself on the 13th. Both times he three-putted the 14th from the lower deck and then took three from the edge to bogey the 15th. Both times he parred the short 16th but then lost another stroke to par by overhitting the 17th green and taking three to get down. There were many differences, but in outline the resemblance between past and present was quite incredible. No one, probably, was more aware of it than Venturi himself, caught as he was in what must have seemed like a bad dream.
I have no idea what thoughts went through Ken's head that evening or how he managed to regain his confidence overnight, butsomehow he did. His superb play on the last three rounds was one of the most remarkable demonstrations of courage in a very long time and one of the most affecting. It was a pity after coming all the way back that he couldn't have won, but he will one of these days.