The fact that there were any greens at all at Royal Kaanapali was in itself something of an achievement. Less than two months before the matches were scheduled to begin, Tournament Director Corcoran and Sidney L. James, the chairman of the Canada Cup matches, visited the course to give it a final tour of inspection. To their horror they discovered that most of the greens were completely unplayable and two of the fairways were out of service. They learned there had recently been a change in green-keepers, and the new one may have been using too much of Maui's brackish irrigation water on the greens. A call was put through to Trent Jones in New York, and he hurried out with an agronomist, Dr. O. J. Noer, a man widely known for his work with grass. Dr. Noer prescribed some emergency medication, and by late November Royal Kaanapali was again playable, although there had been serious thought of moving the matches to another Hawaiian course.
On Thursday morning Palmer and Nicklaus began to show how playable the 7,200-yard Royal Kaanapali course really was as they set out to make a luau of the opposition. Driving better than he has at any time since the Masters in April and putting with complete confidence. Palmer turned in rounds of 66, 67, 67 to put himself 16 strokes under par by Sunday. At one point he was so ebullient that the sound of an Hawaiian combo floating across the fairways set him to undulating in what the locals described as a Tahitian hula. Nicklaus started slower and said he felt logy, but there was nothing indolent about his 65 on Saturday. It tied Palmer's three-day-old record and put Nicklaus 10 under par for three rounds. As the last round started on Sunday morning the team competition was simply a formality—the U.S. was 26 under par, nine strokes better than the South African team of Gary Player and Denis Hutchinson. In the individual competition, Player—hitting the ball excellently after a two-month layoff—was in second place, three strokes behind Palmer. The U.S. and South Africa were paired together, and a South Sea Island division of Arnie's Army was born. Virtually the entire gallery of more than 7,000 trailed this foursome, causing Nicklaus to observe, "How did they all get here? Swim?"
If they did, they got wet to see some strange golf. Play was slow right from the beginning—it took six hours to finish the round—and this seemed to take its toll of Palmer's good spirits, to say nothing of his performance. While Nicklaus was displaying some of his best golf, birdieing three of the first five holes and outdriving Palmer and Player by as much as 50 yards, Arnold lost his control over the ball and finally his concentration. By the end of nine holes, Palmer's big lead was down to a single stroke over Jack and Gary. The remainder of the match produced some of the most erratic golf these champions have ever played. At one point Nicklaus got three strokes ahead, but then drove into the water at the 15th and three-putted the 16th. Finally, only some almost ludicrous flailings by Arnold—who finished with a 78 to Jack's 70—and Player enabled Nicklaus to win the individual trophy for the second year in a row. Palmer was two strokes back at 278, and Player tied for third at 279 with chubby Ted Makalena, a powerful if somewhat inconsistent local pro who naturally carried the good wishes of the natives. In spite of the finish, the big trophy, the Canada Cup itself, was safely in U.S. hands. Palmer and Nicklaus, posting a total score of 554, broke the tournament's team record, gave the United States its fifth straight Canada Cup win, and left second-place Argentina 11 strokes behind.
Even with its bizarre ending, Hawaii's first major sporting event was a solid success. The air was warm, the skies were clear and the trade winds that normally blast across Royal Kaanapali happily refused to blow, as if by supreme decree of the demigod Maui himself. In such a setting, tournament golf can be one of the most idyllic professions known to man—second, perhaps, to loafing. It would take a real curmudgeon to find anything to carp at under the circumstances, but one of the 23 newsmen brought to Maui on the cuff by the Canada Cup committee from as far away as Europe and Japan filled that specification. A correspondent from London, he complained to Fred Corcoran that Maui was a poor location for an international golf tournament. "This place," he grumbled, nursing his planter's punch, "is only for millionaires."