- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Professional golfers are in a high-stepping frame of mind as the 1963 tour gets under way. Arnold Palmer (left) cavorted on the 18th green after sinking the winning putt in the Los Angeles Open. So did Phil Rodgers (right), delighted to be tied for fourth. There is good reason for the joy, as Alfred Wright explains on the next page—never have the pros had so much to play for, or such crowds to watch them.
JACK'S JANISSARIES JOIN ARNIE'S ARMY ON A GOLDEN MARCH
When it comes to good old stretching-in-the-sun euphoria, there are few things that equal the opening of the professional golf season. No matter who you happen to be—spectator, player, PGA official, press or the policeman at the parking lot—this is one of those rare times in the sports year in which everything's coming up spring. That's the way it has been in California the last fortnight, where the world's best golfers almost boyishly went to work on the most lucrative chase in the game's history.
At stake in Professional Golfers' Association events alone is the unprecedented total of more than $2 million. The prize money during the first five weeks of the tour in California sounds like a foreign-aid program: 550,000 at Los Angeles, $25,000 at San Diego, $50,000 at the Bing Crosby pro-amateur in Pebble Beach, $50,000 at the Lucky International in San Francisco and another $50,000 at Palm Springs. But even this vista of riches is expected to be dimmed by another five-week period beginning in late May: $50,000 at Indianapolis, $50,000 at the Buick Open, $100,000 at the Thunderbird in New York, more than $80,000 at the U.S. Open and $111,-000 at the brand-new Cleveland Open. Right from the beginning, as the touring pros arrived at Rancho Municipal Golf Club for the Los Angeles Open, it was obvious that this was a new season, and every man there thought a considerable chunk of this money would soon be his.
Take Art Wall Jr., for instance. Ever since he was voted Player of the Year at the end of the 1959 season, Art has been trailed by trouble. First it was a kidney ailment that spread to other parts of his body and gave him a lame knee. Later he had a bout with hepatitis. He hadn't played in a tournament since September. But at Rancho on opening day, Wall could say cheerily, "I really feel better than I have in a long time."
He then shot rounds of 68, 70 and 67 to lead the tournament by two strokes. A wobbly 74 on the final day dropped him five strokes back—that old rust showing—but he finished in a tie for ninth and picked up a nice check for $1,358.34.
Ken Venturi is another of the tour's big names who has had his share of dismay. Last February, while playing in the Palm Springs tournament, Venturi leaned over to pick up the ball and pulled something in his back. Cortisone shots and heat treatments seemed to clear up the trouble, and Ken rejoined the tour in Florida a month or so later, but it was no good. There was a pinched nerve in his back. Then Doc Bauman of the St. Louis baseball Cardinals prescribed ultrasonic treatments, and now the muscle spasms are gone. "I never felt better," Venturi exulted one day at Rancho. "I'm hitting the ball as well as I ever did when I was going my best."
A lengthy layoff from the tournament grind has given Mike Souchak a new lease on golf. "I've had three months away from the tour," Mike explained. "I've kept in shape hunting and fishing at home, and had some time to think about things. When you knock off for a long stretch, you get a chance to look at your problems from the outside in rather than the inside out. It gives you a new feeling of confidence."
The golfers who had been enjoying the best of times were not above bringing something new and hopeful to the tour. Billy Casper, for example, brought along a new putting style, his feet almost touching, his stance slightly open and his body more nearly over the ball—this from the man conceded to be the best putter in the business (see chart). Always exuberant Gary Player, apparently relaxed from weeks of travel and exhibitions, was showing an even bigger smile and more vitality. "Maawk," he told his lawyer, Mark McCormack, "Aw am hitting the ball so well Aw am embarrassed." He didn't look embarrassed several days later while winning the San Diego Open.
Even the man one could most expect to be satisfied with the status quo, Arnold Palmer, had something new, a competitive keenness that he never before had shown this early in the year.