In the long run, the Casper-Nicklaus contest should turn out to be nothing more than a lagniappe to a tournament that may someday rival the Masters itself in prestige and pleasure. The event's beginnings, not incidentally, own a certain similarity to the founding of the Masters, if you take into consideration how the times and the atmosphere of golf have changed in a quarter of a century. Like the Masters, Houston has started out as a player's tournament run by players. In much the same way that Bob Jones's presence and participation made the players feel they were among their own at the Masters, so does that of Burke and Demaret at Houston.
Champions is a golf club without irrelevant frills. The modern, single-story clubhouse has one large and airy common room for drinking and dining, and a huge, L-shaped locker room so comfortably appointed that members are in danger of forgetting hearth, home and office. Throughout the week, touring pros, who normally flee a golf course at the conclusion of a round as if the place were under napalm attack, were lounging around the locker room until well into the evening, replaying their shots and listening to Demaret explain how the AFL was going to humiliate the NFL in the Supergame.
Burke and Demaret have created a course among the oaks and pines of southeastern Texas that easily ranks as the outstanding achievement in golfing architecture since World War II. It is a tight-driving course with enormous, softly undulating greens that can be nerve-racking to read. Its flexibility is such that it can be stretched from 6,231 to 7,118 yards. That it yielded as many sub-par rounds as it did last week was due in part to its flawless condition, and in part to the leniency of PGA officials in the placement of the tees and pins.
"If every tournament were like this one," observed Bob Rosburg, a crusty veteran of the circuit who is somewhat frugal with his approbation, "I would never leave the tour." Especially, one might add, when $111,419 isn't enough to make you golf's leading money-winner.
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