Palmer looked, as he always does when he seems on the way to victory, like a man who is late for a big appointment. He was eager, so eager that he hit one shot onto the course before he ever teed off. Practicing in a sand trap, he blasted a wild wedge high into the trees surrounding the first tee, a blow that was viewed as most amusing, though hardly a portent. As play began, his shots, although evading tree branches, were still a little wild, but he was chipping superbly with a wedge on which he had bent some extra loft specially for the Open's long rough, and he needed only one putt on three of the first four greens. It was at the 5th hole that Palmer's first makable putt failed to drop. When the same thing happened on the 6th hole and he took his second straight bogey, a little of the starch seemed to go out of him. Jacobs was holding steady at par, and was three strokes up on Palmer. It was at this moment that the gallery following the two leaders first could see the large scoreboard behind the 7th green, where a row of red (for sub-par) figures was growing opposite Venturi's name.
Venturi had birdied the first and the 4th and the 5th by drilling daring iron shots to the tight pin positions. He was tied with Palmer. Moments later a cheer went up from the gallery surrounding the 8th green indicating another birdie for Venturi, and this same cheer, grown even louder, arose at the 9th green, when he birdied that hole. These were the numbers: 3-3-4-3-3-4-3-3-4—a five-under-par 30 on the first nine holes. "It was the greatest nine holes I ever played in my life," Venturi was to say later. "If I ever played the kind of nine holes that I've dreamed about, this was it. I hit every fairway, I hit every green, and I made every possible putt."
Even so, his day was a long way from over. He had nine more holes to play in his morning round, then a full 18 holes after lunch, for it has been traditional in the U.S. and Britain that the Open champion must prove his stamina as well as his ability by playing two full rounds on the final day.
Perhaps because he had been off the tour for a time, or perhaps simply because he had taken no salt pills, Ken began to have trouble. Conni approached to hand him an iced tea on the 10th tee. "Go back in the clubhouse," he said protectively, and he did not drink the tea. The temperature was now well over 90�—it was measured at 112� by the cup on one green—and by the 14th hole Venturi began to wilt. He had made one more birdie—at the 12th—to stay even with Jacobs, but, as he put it, "I started to shake all over. It wasn't nerves. My whole body was shaking." At the 15th and 16th holes he barely salvaged his pars after some erratic shots. By the time he reached the 17th green he could scarcely hold his putter, and he three-putted there from 25 feet.
At the 18th hole he drove among some trees in the right rough, recovered well and came trudging down the long, sloping fairway to the green in short, weary steps. The enormous gallery lining both sides of the fairway for more than 400 yards applauded every step, and Venturi acknowledged the tribute by removing the white linen cap that has been his trademark ever since he first made his mark in golf as an amateur by almost winning that 1956 Masters. But a couple of minutes later he missed a four-foot putt for his second consecutive bogey. He winced in disappointment, but he still was in with a remarkable 66. The big scoreboard across the pond from the 18th green told him that Jacobs was ahead of him again—by two strokes. Palmer was four behind.
A station wagon drove Venturi and his playing partner, Raymond Floyd, back up the hill to the clubhouse for lunch. Venturi could not eat. His face was ashen, his eyes glazed and he walked to his locker without saying a word to anyone. He sat with his back against the locker and began to shuffle aimlessly through some letters. He asked for some tea, then some lemons and salt tablets—the first salt and liquid he had had since he started the morning's golf. His fellow pros were concerned. Lema came over to congratulate him and watched him closely. Jay Hebert came over and whispered to him. Raymond Floyd went to find Conni. "He's sick," Floyd told her. A doctor was called. Ken still sat, saying nothing. Dr. John Everett, a club member, came in, took his pulse and decided he should lie down in a private room until he was due to go back into the sun for another four hours of pressure golf.
After the 50-minute break, Venturi was back on the first tee ready to play his afternoon round. Dr. Everett was with him now, carrying a container of salt tablets, and a marshal had a plastic thermos of iced tea and some chocolate bars. Towels dipped in ice water were handed Venturi when he asked.
He seemed well revived, and he parred his way easily through the first five holes. By that time he knew he was again tied for the lead, as Jacobs had taken a double-bogey 5 on the short 2nd hole and Palmer continued to lose his personal battle with his own putter.
Playing the dangerous 6th hole carefully clear of the pond that borders the green, Venturi three-putted for a bogey 5, but he got the stroke back with a 10-foot birdie putt at the 9th. Although the weariness showed as he moved from shot to shot, there was nothing frail about the way he struck the ball. Yet this is not at all the same Venturi who had won 10 tournaments in his first three years as a pro. The lovely, graceful swing that had made him the best long-iron player in golf had given way to a flat, quick backswing that got the job done about as well but would excite no lyrical phrases from the purists.
Now, as Venturi started up the long 10th hole, having completed the first nine holes in even par, he still stood two strokes under par for the tournament and had his first clear lead, for Jacobs had suffered another bogey behind him, and no one else was within four strokes. Venturi parred his way as far as the long 13th, a very exacting par-4. He was able to get on with a big drive and a good six-iron that stopped 18 feet from the hole. He looked a long time at the putt, hit it, and when it went in for a birdie he closed his eyes, turned and tilted his face up toward the sun for a silent and memorable moment. He now had a three-stroke lead and was almost home.