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Doug Sanders was feeling strong, playing well and signing all his scorecards at this time last year, and he went on to make one of his best showings at Augusta, a tie for 11th. This year he is feeling stronger and playing even better. The logical conclusion is that he will substantially improve on his 1965 Masters performance. If wholesome living guarantees birdies, he surely will. After years of the joyous life, Sanders is no longer the tour's playboy. He has become the image of dedication, a Gary Player with wavy hair. Now, like all the rest of the pros, he talks about his aches and pains, his anguish and discomfort, then limps out and shoots a 59 or so. He has already won twice this year, including last week's Jacksonville Open.
Sanders has always been considered a sure loser at Augusta on the theory that he is a short hitter. But this is not exactly true. "I prefer tight courses where you have to work the ball around corners, but when I'm playing well the long hitters aren't that much longer than I am," he says. "Where I do lose distance is with my long irons."
He is a fine putter, but his chief strength is his ability to drive with great accuracy, to "work the ball." Therefore, he will try to duplicate Gary Player's plan and attack the course boldly. "I'm going to cut all the corners," he says, "take every edge." This requires a lot of nerve, but Sanders has plenty. If he can manage 72 holes without a mistake he can win. It is a big order but it is not impossible.
Gay Brewer rates as one of golf's least successful winners. In his 10 years on the tour he has won eight tournaments, including last December's PGA National Four-Ball, but has received hardly a ripple of public acclaim. It is typical of Brewer's career, for example, that while he was winning the Pensacola Open last month Doug Sanders was winning the headlines for not signing his scorecard and getting disqualified.
One reason for Brewer's obscurity may be the inconsistent nature of his career. His first decade as a pro was a history of super one day, ghastly the next. Now his game, at last, has changed. At 34 he has developed into a consistently good player. He scored four of his victories in the last six months and has been playing well when he wasn't winning.
"I think my game has picked up in all departments," he says, "and so has my mental attitude. That is because I've been putting so well. I am putting a great deal better than I ever have going into a Masters."
In addition to his deftness on the putting greens, what makes Brewer a challenger at Augusta is that he is long off the tee. "There are not too many who can outhit me when I get souped up," he says. And right now he is souped up. Off his past performance chart—his highest finish in five Augusta starts was a tie for 11th in 1962—he is decidedly a long shot next week. But make no mistake; this is a new Gay Brewer. No longer can he be ignored at the Masters.
Frank Beard has become, at 26, as good a young player as there is on the tour. He is, like Cassius Clay, backed by a group of Louisville businessmen, and he has paid off their faith in him handsomely. Even a severe—if short—attack of encephalitis, which kept him off part of the tour in 1964, has failed to impede his progress. He came back last year to win the Texas Open, finish third in the U.S. Open and earn $52,000 in prize money. He is off to another strong start this year.
Beard's swing is so compact and consistent that his golf has a machinelike quality. "It doesn't usually make any difference whether I'm playing an easy course or a tough one," he says. "I always seem to hit the ball about 20 feet from the hole." He is a good putter. On his way to an eighth-place finish at Augusta last year he averaged only 31 putts a round. Also, even though he concentrates on keeping his drives in play, he does not lack length. "He hits about as far as I do," says Palmer.