Earlier in the day Nicklaus had made a small start toward fulfilling this slightly nonpositive thinking by Player. His 67 had put him in a four-way tie with Aaron, Lema and Sikes, but somehow the Nicklaus 67 was achieved with such freewheeling ease that it seemed like a routine round. This was not the grunting and straining Nicklaus of other years, who sometimes swung at the ball like a lumberman whacking a redwood. The Nicklaus swing of this tournament was so smooth and effortless that Jack looked to be only half trying. Yet he was hitting his drives 300 yards and better, and lofting little wedge shots to greens that other players could only reach with much longer clubs. Nicklaus was also hitting his irons high, as he usually does. This is especially important at the Masters. "They talk about his driving," said Byron Nelson, "but he wins at Augusta because he has that very long, very high iron shot that just drops on the green." In seven practice rounds during the week before the Masters, Nicklaus was never once over par, and his confidence in himself fairly bubbled forth. But when he went home from the course Thursday night he was far from happy with his putting. Changes were coming up. He was two strokes behind Player, and only three ahead of that ever-fearsome fellow, Arnold Palmer.
In addition to all the birdies, there were two other things to see on Thursday, one chilling, one warm. A smattering of people watched as Ken Venturi teed off at 11 a.m., the circulation in his ailing right hand no better. ("I can stick pins in it and not feel anything," he told a fellow pro.) His first shot went into some fruit trees on the right. He played seven holes before he reached a green in regulation figures. His longest tee shots were less than 200 yards. He is the U.S. Open champion, but no gallery followed him, understandably, perhaps. Ken Venturi was something not to see.
Then there was Bobby Jones. The glorious weather brought him out, a rare appearance on the course for the man who started the Masters. He is suffering severely these days from spinal trouble and is hardly able to fulfill the role of host to the tournament, turning over most of the work to his old friend and colleague, Clifford Roberts. But on this fine day Jones was driven out to the back nine in a golf cart. He was at the 15th hole when Jack Nicklaus got a birdie 4. After holing out, Nicklaus walked over to Bob Jones and greeted him with all the touching respect that today's famous golfers feel toward this legendary figure whom most of them are too young ever to have seen in action. As each of the following players approached the 15th green, Jones checked his identity with a nearby official, for he wanted to greet each by name. As they passed his cart on their way to the 16th tee, each would stop, tip his hat and shake Jones's hand.
Jones must also have enjoyed the enthusiasm of the crowd. For the second consecutive year, Masters officials sensibly limited galleries to a figure that is their own well-kept secret, although estimates run anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000, the former probably being closer to the truth. On Thursday only 2,500 daily tickets were left to be put on sale at the gates, and the supply was exhausted within an hour after play began. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday had been sold out for a week, and scalpers were getting as much as $175 for a two-day pair. One radio station advertised a telephone number where tickets could be obtained, but another, WBIA, took a different tack. On Saturday morning an announcer read and reread an editorial abhorring the scalping as a blow to civic pride and requested listeners to report any such activity to the tournament committee at once. "WBIA can only ask that you let your conscience be your guide," the voice intoned. Preferred parking stickers were also at a premium, and one local citizen whose conscience was guiding him astray was peddling photostats of them, which caused a bit of a crush in the parking lots. Thus golf had its first gate-crashing, credential-forging, ticket-scalping tournament, and never mind if the players were happily whipping their way around the hallowed Augusta National course as if it were the site of the Sioux City Open.
Friday started with a bulletin and a breeze, and both meant trouble. The first, News Bulletin No. 12, was signed by R. T. Jones Jr. and Clifford Roberts and said, in part: "The world's finest golfers responded splendidly to the most ideal course and weather conditions we have ever been privileged to offer. Our golf course officials will follow our established procedure with respect to pin locations and tee markers. We anticipate and hope for more low scoring today." Oh, sure. And Rome hoped Hannibal wouldn't mind the Alps. What the golf course officials did was move the tee markers back and put the pins in some fanciful positions. The effect of their effort was abetted by the wind, which is especially nasty at Augusta because it cuts and swirls through the giant pines in unpredictable patterns. Now subtle skills were needed, and the Masters was for masters once again.
Defending Champion Palmer, the tournament's only four-time winner, took command. His opening-round 70 had looked anemic alongside Player's 65 and all the 67s and 68s that filled the scoreboard. Already the Palmer-doubters were beginning to write him off. But Arnold had actually played quite well. His driving was excellent and he was hitting his irons firmly. Only his putting had lacked authority. He had two three-putt greens but, more important, he had at least two good birdie putts that he seemed to hit lamely off to the low side of the hole.
On the Monday before the tournament started he had received five new Arnold Palmer putters from his company in Chattanooga, though they could not be told from his famous old one because the manufacturer is now dipping this model putter into copper sulphate to give it a rusted look. But not even instant rust could help Arnold's confidence. He had been fussing about his putting for weeks. "He has to get his confidence back," his wife Winnie said. "Last night Arnie was certain that he was the worst putter who ever stepped onto a golf course. Just try and convince him he is wrong. The big difference between Jack and Arnie right now is confidence. It does not occur to Jack that he can miss a putt. It is when you get older that you realize you can miss them."
Arnie began his Friday round in a nine-way tie for 12th place, with a different putter in his bag and, almost surely, a slighted feeling because his name was not on the leader's scoreboard. On the first green he sank a perilous 18-footer for a birdie 3. On the second, he two-putted from just off the back edge of the green for a birdie 4. Quickly his name reappeared on the scoreboards, one of which noted him as A. Palmer (is there a B. Palmer?). On the third hole he sank a 40-foot chip shot for a birdie, and now he was within two strokes of Player.
By the time he got to the 13th Arnie's Army was in full cry, and he was ready to gamble. To shouts of, "Go for it, Arnie," he hit a nervy three-wood out of a nasty lie against a strong wind. It carried the water and reached the green, where he two-putted for a birdie. The same choice of club was later to cost Nicklaus a bogey when his ball just barely cleared the creek and then rolled back into the water. But Arnold's tremendous shot landed well on, and the Army loved it.
Palmer got his birdie at the 13th and another at the par-5 15th after an equally daring wood shot that was hit into the gallery—very likely on purpose, but soldiers in any Army must be prepared to suffer. He coasted in from there with a 68 that might easily have been three or four strokes better. It was the best score of the day by two strokes and, considering the conditions, probably the best round of the tournament so far. The only other subpar rounds among those who survived the cut were Ken Nagle's 70 and 71s by Nicklaus and Bobby Nichols. Player, who came in with a rather dicey 73, was now locked in a three-way tie for the lead with Palmer and Nicklaus at 138. Where a few hours earlier Ben Hogan's tournament record had seemed in serious jeopardy, now it appeared safe again for years to come.