"Sixty-seven, eh? And how did you play?" asked Arnold.
"Miserably," said Jack, and they both started laughing and pummeling each other. Then Arnold leaned over toward Jack. "That's too damn low," he whispered, and now he was half serious.
Even a fine stroke of luck on what should have been the first day of the tournament did not appreciably raise Palmer's lagging spirits. He had shot a two-over-par 74 and Nicklaus was four under par after eight holes when a sudden rain squall lashed the golf course and washed out all first-round scores. Palmer went quietly off to his motel, had a drink, had dinner and was in bed by 10 o'clock. Nicklaus, meanwhile, drove down the road from his motel to Poor Boy's Riverside Inn and, with Touring Pros Gordon Jones, Al Kelley and Dave Ragan as witnesses, ate four dozen of Lafayette's best oysters.
The next two days were dry, at least, but they were windy, cold and getting colder. The temperature fell to 44� on Friday and half the field teed off wearing knitted ski caps. For Palmer, his dour face topped by a dapper snap-brim seersucker hat and his figure padded out by layers of sweaters, things went from good to bad to splash. He shot a 68 during the new first round, but spoiled the day by hitting into the water in front of the last hole and taking a double-bogey 5. On Saturday he bogeyed five straight holes ("I can't remember when I last did that," he said) early, and only a resolute recovery produced a two-over-par 74.
Nicklaus, meanwhile, could have been bleeding from the heart. First, his six-shot advantage over Palmer had been washed out on Thursday. His Friday score, like Palmer's, was a 68. But on Saturday he had more trouble. On the third hole he and Butch Baird, playing together, managed to hit each other's MacGregor Tourney golf balls (they learned of the mistake when they got to the green and checked the ball numbers) and each was penalized two strokes. Jack still had a good 71 and led Arnold by three shots, but could he give away eight shots to Palmer—through rain and through carelessness—and still stay far enough ahead of him to gain $318.87?
Nicklaus seemed unperturbed. While Palmer was still on the course, working out his own private problems with his irons and his putter, Jack's Aero Commander kept appearing in the overcast sky to the west. Its owner was practicing touch-and-goes at the nearby airport.
The final day was a bitter collection of all the reasons any golfer might have for passing up the Cajun Classic. To complete 36 holes the golfers had to start by dawn's earliest light. The weather would have been fine for the Dartmouth Winter Carnival or for pheasant hunting in Latrobe, Pa., but it was not fine for golf. When he teed off at 8:12 for his morning round, Nicklaus looked more like a polar bear than the Golden Bear he uses as a trademark; he was wearing three sweaters, a knitted yellow dickey and a rain suit. The official temperature was slightly above freezing, but out on the course a 20-mph wind was blowing and nobody knew how cold it was. Jack could guess, though. By the time he reached the 3rd hole—followed by a gallery of 18—the damp towel that hung from his golf bag was frozen stiff.
The morning frostbite regatta was somehow completed but it did not drastically affect the standings, though Miller Barber, a 33-year-old often present but rarely noted touring pro, shot a remarkable 68 to take a one-stroke lead in the tournament over Nicklaus. Palmer, with a 71, was tied for fourth, two shots back of Jack. As the next 18 progressed—and galleries grew to 400—Nicklaus increased his lead to four strokes over Palmer. Then Arnold played a stretch of five holes in four under par and looked to have a chance again, only to fall into one of those strange bogey spells that has so unsettled him lately. When, on the 15th hole, he missed a two-foot putt he assumed he was beaten. He stubbed the toe of his putter into the green in dismay, and then sheepishly set about repairing the damage.
But 30 minutes later, while warming himself in the clubhouse, Palmer found he still had a chance. Miller Barber had won the tournament handsomely by five strokes, but now Gay Brewer, who was finishing with a rush, had a 16-foot putt on 18 that could earn him second place. If he made the putt Jack would finish third, and Palmer would be leading money winner. If he missed, Jack would be tied for second, and be the leading money winner by $81.13. Brewer walked over to Nicklaus, and Jack jokingly slipped a money clip into Brewer's hand. Then Nicklaus turned his back to the green. "It was the first putt I couldn't bring myself to watch since the six-footer Palmer missed that would have beaten me in the 1962 Open," said Jack later. The putt stopped short, and Nicklaus breathed again. Thanks to a trip to Lafayette, he was leading money winner of 1964, with a total of $113,284.50.
"This is the eighth time I have finished second this year," said Nicklaus, "but it is the first time in my life I felt happy about it."