If, with respect to the British tournament of 1930, I should adduce more detail than appears to be warranted, it is because I have soberly concluded it was the most important tournament of my life. Without it, the Grand Slam would have died aborning. Besides, the winning of it included more interesting, dramatic matches than any tournament in my experience.
In the first round I was drawn against a player from Nottingham named Sid Roper. All that anyone seemed to know about Roper was that he was a very ordinary golfer. I was told that he would most likely not play any hole better than 5.
Throughout all the years I had engaged in golfing competition, I held a notion that I could make a pretty fair appraisal of the worth of an opponent simply by speaking to him on the first tee and taking a good measuring look into his eyes; I thought I could tell whether or not he would be likely to play his best game under pressure. What I observed of Mr. Roper in this respect was not at all reassuring. He had a very clear, steady look in his eyes; his manner was quite composed, and he had the aspect not only of a competitor, but of a golfer as well. When he struck his first tee shot, he looked even more like both. His swing was polished, compact and assured. I knew right then that I was in for a real game—and how glad I am that I did have this knowledge! When the match ended on the 16th green, I had two 4s left for 68, which would have equaled the amateur record for St. Andrews I had set three years earlier. Mr. Roper, who had been expected to play few holes under 5, actually required that many strokes on only one, the 13th, which he 3-putted. The other 15 he played in 4 each. On the basis of comparative scores I think he would have won from any other player in the field. I know he would have beaten me on any other day of the tournament, except possibly on the morning of the final match.
From the start, everyone around St. Andrews seemed to be looking forward to the possible meeting of Cyril Tolley and me on Wednesday afternoon. Cyril, too, had a narrow escape in the first round, but he managed to make it. No one had any illusions about Cyril. He had always been a fearsome competitor in this championship. He had won it for the second time the year before. He was a big, powerful player with an exquisite touch in the short game, and in my opinion the most dangerous man I could meet in an 18-hole match at St. Andrews.
Cyril and I had been very good friends for many years before that day, and we have remained fast friends ever since. I know that match still stands in his memory, as it does in mine, as an afternoon in which each of us called on every resource in an all-out effort to beat the other. I felt the same exultation and desperate urgency I should expect to feel in a battle with broadswords and cudgels. We played in literally half a gale, and in 16 holes the match was brought back on six occasions from one down to even, as we alternated in taking the lead. The play on the 17th, the famous Road Hole, is still being discussed. That it was a break for me is undeniable. Just how colossal a break it was will perhaps never be known. The facts are as follows:
The two drives, over the sheds, with the wind behind, were long, with Cyril out in front. My ball lay near the left side of the fairway, his about center.
Playing the odd, my second was an iron, to the left of the Road Bunker. The ball bounded into the mass of spectators and dropped on the apron at the back of the green, a few feet off the putting surface.
Tolley's second was short, and curled off the slope at the front of the green, stopping in a position that left the bunker between his ball and the flag.
I, being away, chipped to a distance of approximately eight feet from the cup.
Tolley's little pitch dropped exactly in the only possible spot, barely over the bunker, at the top of a slope running down to the hole. His ball stopped within two feet of the cup.