How many Beacon Journal readers were on the course when the foursome began play Saturday morning is anybody's guess, but it is a fact that the gallery of some 4,000 people looked on in chill silence as Nicklaus birdied the first two holes. Jack survived some mighty and gutsy scrambling by aching Arnie, who one-putted seven of the first nine greens to reach the turn in even par 35, and eventually Nicklaus held a three-shot lead over Palmer and Charles and four strokes over Boros as they moved into the 18th hole. There Nicklaus hit a nine-iron approach shot that bounced toward a greenside sand trap. "Get into the trap," called a scattering of voices, no doubt belonging to those who by now had decided Nicklaus was nothing but a pudgy pop-off. The ball ended up just off the green, from where Nicklaus chipped up about four feet past the hole for a makable par. But he missed the four-footer, then jabbed at and missed holing the one-foot putt he still had remaining. In those seconds Nicklaus threw away his entire afternoon's work. He and Charles were tied at 70. Palmer was at 71 and Boros at 72. It seemed completely inexplicable. But it wasn't.
"When I heard people yelling for my ball to get in that trap I was really upset," Nicklaus said later. "I know a lot of people don't want to cheer for me, but this is the first time that I have ever heard them cheer against me. They even cheered when I missed that first putt. I was shook by it. That story in the paper was about the most foolish I've ever read, but I guess a lot of people believed it."
This drew sympathetic amens from Palmer. "Good Lord," he said, "it was just plain, good-natured needling. I was calling him Ohio Fats, needling him on the course. We just did a little more needling off the course."
Sunday brought back into focus an aspect of this unique golf event that had been almost forgotten in the swirl of other developments: each of the contestants had a different reason for wanting to win.
For Bob Charles the incentive was, of course, the $50,000. "The money means a great deal more to me than to the others," he explained. "So I guess you could say there should be more pressure on me. But, actually, I feel very good about my position. I'm the underdog. No one expects me really to do much of anything."
For Boros the challenge was to demonstrate there was no such thing as a Big Three of golf—Palmer, Nicklaus and Gary Player. "Look, my job is to beat three other guys," he said in his soft voice. "I don't care whether we're playing for $50,000 or $1,000. I'm playing well now, and when I'm playing well I feel I can beat anyone. I guess I'm glad I have the chance to play a couple of them here. When you win you want to have beaten the best."
For Palmer the incentive was obvious. For the first time since 1959 he has gone without a major championship. This represented a chance to defeat the three who had deprived him of the titles he relishes.
For Nicklaus the object was to show that he was the best.
"The incentive?" he said. "You know me. It's to win. Though $50,000 is nice to have—and what do I have after taxes?—I'd want to win just as badly if we were playing for nothing."
His was the incentive that was to prevail on Sunday afternoon—this and a residue of anger caused by the off-course byplay. Nicklaus teed off, determined to win the show as quickly as possible. After only six holes he was four strokes ahead of his nearest rival, Charles. Then Palmer put on one of his great spurts, hitting each shot beautifully and cheering the hearts of bursitis sufferers everywhere. By the 12th he had overtaken a faltering Nicklaus, only to fall back immediately again when he smashed a two-iron shot smack into the middle of a tree trunk. Now it was Boros' turn, and in his unspectacular way Big Jay came up with four spectacular birdies on the last six holes. It was all Nicklaus could do on the 18th to slap his way out from a group of trees, get down in two putts from 75 feet away and end up with a one-stroke victory. He was even par for the 36 holes. Boros finished second, Palmer two strokes behind him, and Charles four more back.