But despite the fact that his jet flight from New York was 12 hours long, that it swished down into Buenos Aires airport through a late-evening thunderstorm (Sam is not the most relaxed flyer at the best of times), that the usual customs delays were punctuated by a series of power failures, that his hotel room was the size of a golf bag ("It's the kind that you walk into and back out of," he said) and that a painfully pinched nerve in his right foot made walking difficult, Snead's disposition remained professionally placid. He sailed serenely through his practice rounds, got to bed early each night and showed up at the official pre-tournament banquet decked out in the team's official blazing red sports jacket. He sipped orange juice, chatted with the guests and the other players and even slipped a verbal needle into Arnold Palmer's tough hide. Palmer had mentioned that his private plane was now equipped with whitewall tires.
"Whew," Snead whistled, "I guess you wear ruffles on your undershorts, too."
Later, over demitasse and ice cream, Snead went to work with his hands, knotting and pushing at a white table napkin until it was transformed into a turbaned Hindu manikin. Snead then inscribed it and presented it to Martin Posse, an oldtime Argentine golfing hero and now the head professional at the Jockey Club. Old Sam was a serene traveling American pro, just the kind Dai Rees had talked about.
There was one added reason for Snead's early good spirits, of course: he had shot practice rounds of 67, 64 and 65. The Jockey Club's Red Course is an exceptionally beautiful parkland layout, but it is not an exceptionally difficult one. It was built for the Jockey Club—which now has 3,000 members and owns a polo field, a racetrack, two golf courses and a clubhouse downtown—by Alister MacKenzie in 1929. MacKenzie is the gifted Scots architect who has designed courses all over the world, and who even had a hand in planning the Augusta National.
To relieve the unending flatness. MacKenzie planted quantities of pine and cedar trees and placed numerous mounds in and alongside the fairways and around the greens. The result is a course that is still basically as fiat as a tabletop but which can often play like a hilly one. The greens themselves are immense and extremely fast, and no golfer from any country will ever solve the unnerving twists that patches of chickweed can give a ball. But the course is short (6,746 yards), the fairways are hard and wide open and, as Sam said with a wink after his third practice round, "It kinda looks like it's my kind of course, don't it?"
For an hour or so during the first round it looked as if the only thing Snead was going to win during the week was the practice-round championship. He drove into the trees on two holes, missed some short putts and was three over par after the 10th hole. Snead's small mouth began to purse with displeasure, and the rest of his face took on an owlish scowl. Grimness is a trait that endears nobody to a Latin golf gallery. They like their players to be emotional, but also cheerful. So they punned him Pisco Sour, and they meant sourpuss, not the famous Latin American drink.
On the 11th hole of the first round, however, Snead's golf game came sweetly alive as a beautiful one-iron resulted in an eagle 3.
Snead's confidence in himself was instantly restored. He chipped in from the edge of the 12th green and brought himself back to even par. He birdied the 15th, a par 5, by reaching the green in two shots and finished with a flourish on the 18th by stroking in a 12-foot putt for another birdie and a score of 68, two under par.
Teammate Palmer, meanwhile, was in competitive action for the-first time in nearly a month—a period of semileisure in which he had gained 11 pounds but had let his golf game fall off to what he curtly called "stinky." Yet he matched Snead's 68 with some very good shots (he missed only two greens) and some very weak putting. The score of 136 put the U.S. on top after the first day with a three-stroke lead over Argentina. Fidel de Luca, a strong, dark 40-year-old professional from Buenos Aires whose thin black mustache makes him look like a Cesar Romero, had scored a 68 also, and his better-known teammate, Roberto de Vicenzo, a 71.
The fact that they trailed two of the finest golfers alive did not at all discourage the two Argentine players.