Once the Paris suburb of Saint-Nom-la-Bret�che had been selected as the site for the 11th annual Canada Cup Matches, there was never any doubt that the event would have its memorable elements. The gallery was certain to be spiced with a royal allotment of princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses; the players were certain to get into colorful vocal brawls with bumptious French photographers who did not know the cry of "Fore!" from a petit four; the weather was certain to be battleship gray, in keeping with the French winter that started in June; and international sportsmanship was certain to be advanced in elegant fashion amid fitting pomp and ceremony.
All this would have been enough to make the Canada Cup tournament a noteworthy event, and all of it occurred. What also occurred—something that nobody really expected at all—was a sensational golf tournament. It had been assumed that the U.S. team of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus would grind the two-man squads from 32 other countries right into the firm farm acreage where Louis XIV once grazed his cows. Instead, it took all of the pressure golf Palmer and Nicklaus could muster to keep from being guillotined, first by the South Africans and second by as improbable a pair of Spaniards as ever waved golf sticks in anger. It was not until the last holes of a fog-shortened Monday round that the U.S. prevailed, a burst of birdies by Nicklaus providing a three-stroke margin over Spain and climaxing the biggest golf week in French history.
Golf is not exactly France's national sport, the average citizen regarding it as a game for snobs. But early last week the country was finding itself golf conscious. The daily sports newspaper, L'Equipe, ran a "Rapide Initiation" to the game, including drawings showing "Le Sac Contient Ces Clubs." By the time the play began on Thursday, Prince Michel de Bourbon-Parme, the president of Saint-Nom-la-Bret�che, could confidently say that crowds would be large and enthusiasm considerable. He had only two remaining concerns. One, which he talked about, was the weather. The other, which he didn't, was the quality of the course. Both concerns proved justified. The first foursome was an hour late getting off the tee because fog and mist delayed play. "Gulp," said the prince, publicly.
Saint-Nom-la-Bret�che is a plain Jane of a golf course that is in need of some eyeshadow and lipstick. It is only five years old, and the trees that will make it a beautiful layout in 30 years now stand little more than golf-bag high. Its hazards are few, its rough hardly thicker than its fairways. What is more, there is some question as to how well the men who measure its yardages can count. The first hole is listed as a 456-yard par-5, but this first morning of play Nicklaus reached the green with a drive and an eight-iron. "Gulp," said the prince, privately.
Nicklaus got his eagle, and the supposed rout by the U.S. was on. Just as quickly it was off again. One reason was the very nature of the course. Because there was no trouble on it, everybody swung from the heels, everybody became a big hitter. The Japanese were driving almost as far as Palmer. If their shots hooked into another fairway, who cared? They could still hit back to the green. Thus, the game had to be won on the greens, which were just bouncy enough so that nobody was faring very well on them. At the end of the day the U.S. was tied for first with Canada. A source of minor amusement was the fact that little-known Sebastian Miguel of Spain had the best round of the day, a 66.
It was considered less amusing when, on Friday, the lowest score was a 67 turned in by Ramon Sota of Spain. Nicklaus and Palmer were pained by such developments in several ways. Palmer is overgolfed. His shoulder is still troubled by bursitis. European observers who saw him in the British Open four months ago noticed that he was now beginning to freeze slightly over putts—and miss. He also lost his temper in front of a gallery, something he never does. "It's terrible," he said, after repeatedly rebuking photographers. "They keep clicking when you are over the ball." With Palmer shooting a 69-70, and Nicklaus a 67-72, the U.S. trailed Gary Player and Retief Waltman of South Africa by a stroke. It might have been five strokes, but Waltman and Player were having their own troubles with the greens. Player missed an 11-inch putt on 18, and could hardly contain his dismay. "It would have been a beautiful day without that putt," he said. "For two days I have been playing like a god. But my putting is abominable, catastrophic."
Still untroubled were Sota and Miguel. They now were tied with the U.S. and Canada in second place, and Madrid was beginning to store up ticker tape—just in case. Sota is a burly 25-year-old from Santander who ought to be either a comic or a truck driver. He mugs like the former and blasts his way around a golf course like the latter. If his methods are not smooth, they are effective. He had played in one other Canada Cup, the 1961 event in Puerto Rico. "It was wretchedly hot there," he recalled. "The heat made me nervous. In Santander we have English weather." In Paris, too. Sota was anything but nervous. His partner, Miguel, is 32, suave, lean and dashing. A Madrid pro, his game matches his manner. It is effortless. There are only 5,000 golfers in Spain, and it was soon apparent at Saint-Nom-la-Bret�che that at least two of them were pretty good.
Saturday the dukes, the princes and the big galleries were all back, but the results were much the same. Nicklaus shot a 66, which should have terrified any Spaniard. So Sota nearly sank a three-wood for a double eagle, Miguel rimmed the cup with a 120-yard iron shot, and Spain and the U.S. were still tied, this time for first place, as South Africa fell two strokes behind.
Palmer and Nicklaus did not fly 5,500 miles to lose the Canada Cup, least of all to a pair of latter-day conquistadors. What had started off as a rather pleasant international adventure was by this time an international crisis. "We have to win," said Nicklaus. "The prestige of Uncle Sam is at stake." Also, Uncle Jack and Uncle Arnie.
Sunday dawned. At least the French claim Sunday dawned. The fog was so thick that there was no way to tell, and there was no choice but to postpone the final round a day. This pleased nobody, and the reasons why give an idea of the scope of tournament golf today. The Spaniards were angry because they wanted to rush home for the Spanish Open—which, in turn, had to be postponed a day. Weeks before, Qantas Airlines had actually altered its schedule in order to accommodate the big name golfers who wanted to fly out of France immediately in order to get to the Australian Open on time.