It was strictly a Palmer crowd, the fabled army. "Go Arnie," said a sign on the hat of one spectator. "Go Arnie," were the shouts every time it looked like he might get moving. Each time Palmer putted out his gallery would break ranks in disorder and race for the next hole, not waiting or caring that Nicklaus or the other man in the threesome, Dave Marr, still had putts to make. The ground could have swallowed up Open Champion Nicklaus, and nobody would have known he was gone.
Friday morning at breakfast Nicklaus was asked if it wouldn't have been better to have had him and Palmer in separate threesomes so the gallery would be split up. "That wouldn't help," said Nicklaus. "There would still be 10,000 people following Palmer and about 10 people following me."
"It's like a stampede," said Don Fairfield, who played just ahead of Palmer on the first two rounds, and was too close to the gallery for comfort. "They run wild. It's upsetting to hear those feet pounding and the people yelling."
"There are no laggers in that mob," said old John Barnum, who shot a first-day 66 while playing just behind Palmer. "It's nice and quiet, like a vacuum, behind that man."
Cracks in his calmness
But the strain of being a general was beginning to show on Palmer, too. On one occasion, when the gallery began moving as Nicklaus was about to putt, Palmer said loudly, "We have another man here." The same thing happened on the next hole. "Aw, please!" exclaimed Palmer. Nicklaus, incidentally, missed both those short putts. Also, there were signs that Palmer's irritation threshold, always so unbelievably high, was descending a bit toward human proportions. His radiant bursts of personality came less frequently, and he was more impatient with the things that usually upset everybody but himself—noise from a TV crew, an airplane, a camera, a rustling bit of paper.
On Thursday at the sixth hole a photographer nudged him and said, "Would you move over a little, buddy, so I can take a picture of Nicklaus?" Palmer seethed. At the 12th hole on Friday a television technician on a nearby tower dropped a piece of metal that crashed down like a bomb as Palmer addressed an approach shot. Palmer stepped back, addressed the ball again, and down came another piece of metal. Palmer didn't smile, as once he might have. Then he hit the shot over the green.
The marshals bothered him, too. So many of them were trying to keep order that Palmer sometimes looked like the leader of a Saint Patrick's Day parade. At times the course almost needed marshals to marshal the marshals. And they didn't hesitate to chat with Arnold. The Palmer disposition was finally ruffled enough for him to say, " 'Naturally, I'm happy that so many people want to see me play. But there were times this week when I had to talk to 200 sponsors between shots."
"I don't think it's ever been this bad," his wife Winnie said one morning just before starting out on a round with her husband. Winnie, who stands only five feet three in the golf shoes she wears while walking with Arnold, scarcely gets more than a glimpse of her husband through the mass of humanity as he strides down the fairway.
But Winnie doesn't complain about the crush as she walks unobtrusively among the gallery, usually in company with one of the other wives. "I don't get very close and I miss a lot of the big putts, but I'm always around," she says. "I stay behind him or in front of him, but not with him." A notable exception to this policy came at the British Open, where the enthusiastically stampeding Glaswegians were a threat to life and limb, and Winnie occasionally exercised her privilege of walking down the fairways behind the players.