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"Fidel think we are going to win," said Roberto, tearing at a steak in the clubhouse Thursday night. "And so do I. I don't feel we are the best players here, but we are at home. We know the course and, very important, we know the language. Sometime when you play in foreign country things don't go so good. You lose the brain, you get confused. I know I feel it when I go other country. Everybody talking, you don't understand. Maybe someone in the gallery do something and say he is sorry. Maybe you think he make fun of you. It begin to upset you. That's when you lose the brain and play bad, bad golf."
By the third day it looked as if De Vicenzo's confident prediction might become a reality. The Argentine twosome had dropped to third place after the second round, four shots back of the U.S. and one behind the Australian pair of Kel Nagle and Peter Thomson. But in midafternoon on Saturday a brilliant streak by De Luca marked the high spot of the whole tournament and threatened to leapfrog Argentina far into the lead. When the home-town favorites teed off it was a hot, sunny, utterly cloudless afternoon and a crowd of six to eight thousand people tramped the hard-baked fairways, following the contending teams. Its cheers mixed strangely with the deep roars that floated over from the nearby racetrack. Snead, who was to finish with a 72, and Palmer (69) were making their way into the last three holes, and Australia, suffering a delayed reaction to travel fatigue, was drifting slowly out of contention.
De Luca, however, was frisky and fresh as an Argentine bull. He is a very aggressive player who hits the ball a long way, fully as far as Snead, Palmer or De Vicenzo. He sets himself up grimly for each shot, scowling at the ball from under his thick, dark eyebrows as if he meant to tear it in half. On the first hole of the third round De Luca barely reached the front edge of the huge, sloping green with his approach shot, then knocked his first putt right up the hill and into the hole. The explosive cheer that ensued caused Palmer, then striding up the neighboring 16th fairway, to glance over in alarm. On the next hole De Luca pitched the ball to within 12 feet of the cup and sank that putt. On the 3rd, a par 3, he chipped 60 feet into the hole. He birdied the 4th, too, and the crowd was delirious with joy. But the dramatic climax to this streak of golf was yet to come. On the 5th (a 346-yard par 4), De Luca drove to the left edge of the green and then made his fifth consecutive birdie with a fine chip and a putt. De Vicenzo had played even par meanwhile, and Argentina actually led the U.S. by two shots.
"That's Fidel," said Tony Cerda, an Argentine pro who was playing for Mexico this year. "He gets too excited. He makes five straight birdies, he tries to make another."
"De Luca get crazy in the head," added De Vicenzo later. "He get mad with excitement."
The Argentines scrambled hard to stay even over the last 10 holes. De Vicenzo, nicely holing a 25-foot putt on the tricky 18th green, had a 69, and De Luca, after running into trap trouble and another double bogey on the 17th, finished with a 72. But they were right back where they started, four strokes behind, and their one opportunity had been lost in those three critical holes. De Luca looked a bit like a pisco sour himself, understandably enough.
On the last day it would have been necessary not only for the Argentine team to do a lot of winning, but Snead and Palmer—playing in front of them—would have had to do some losing first. Snead, after nearly a full week of excellent golf, did indeed falter. At one point he banged an approach shot over a green, then hit more dirt than ball as he fluffed the pitch coming back for a double bogey. He finally ended up with a 74. That was enough to cost him the individual championship, as strong-finisher De Vicenzo birdied the 18th hole to post the low score of 276, four under par. Sam finished fourth, three strokes behind De Vicenzo and one behind Palmer and England's Peter Alliss. But Palmer calmly held the U.S. fort, shooting an untroubled 69 to cinch the team victory by two strokes over Argentina. Palmer and Snead had coped with the greens as well as anybody could, and from tee to green they were without doubt the best.
"All we have is sand, and we play that pretty darn well," said Cherif Said of the United Arab Republic. "But here we are no good."
"We play only on hilly courses at home," added Celestino Tugot of the Philippines. "Here it's so flat we couldn't judge the distance to the greens."