Palmer took a long, long time to line up this vital putt as the enormous gallery on the hillside hardly breathed. He knew by this time that Nichols and Rodgers were no longer in the game, for he had carefully studied a nearby scoreboard when he reached the green; and he also knew that Nicklaus must have hit a marvelous drive from the adjoining 18th tee, because he heard the roar of the gallery and the unusual applause as Jack strode purposefully off the tee and down the fairway, his sunburned face and jaw working in determination.
Just as Palmer bent over his eight-foot putt on the 17th, he paused, backed up, looked at the television tower behind him and gestured impatiently. "1 could hear the TV announcer summarizing my putt," he explained later.
"Did you agree with him?" someone asked.
"No," Palmer replied emphatically.
The disturbance over, Palmer tried once again to sink a putt. And once again he missed on a green that by this late hour had gotten firm and fast as a turnpike.
At the 18th Nicklaus had hit what he later called his best drive of the tournament, and all he needed was a six-iron to reach the green on this very long, 462-yard par 4, which many of the golfers never reached with two good woods. Palmer, in his turn, got there with a drive and a four-iron. Each had similar putts for the birdie—Nicklaus from 12 feet. Palmer from 10.
And, as golf's largest gallery—a well-mannered and excellently marshaled crowd, in spite of its size—watched, they both missed. Palmer's miss was the more dramatic, for by now his hair-raising finishes have become so legendary that everyone is surprised and disappointed if he fails to win a tournament with his final stroke on the 72nd hole. But this time he disappointed both his fans and himself. So the tournament went into the ninth playoff of 1962 as Palmer and Nicklaus each finished with 283, one stroke under par for the full four rounds.
Sunday's sensational playoff was a rematch of the pairing of the first two days, when Palmer and Nicklaus also played together. Then, as on Saturday, each shot about the finest golf of his career. On Thursday Palmer's par 71 had led Jack by a stroke, and on Friday his 68 gained two on Jack's 70. Now they were to have at it again.
"I wish it were someone else," Palmer said with a grin when he finally could relax from the ordeal of Saturday's 36 holes. Then he looked affectionately at the 10 years younger and happily smiling face of Nicklaus. "That big, strong dude," said Palmer. "I thought I was through with him yesterday." Arnold Palmer will be contending with Jack Nicklaus for a long, long time.