The thing about a lot of touring golf pros is this: if you give one of them enough time for his putter to heat up, he can turn even the most classic of championships into another Pensacola Open. Gay Brewer Jr., a guy in his mid-30s developing a paunch, a man with a loopy swing who has been strolling along on the PGA tour for 10 years achieving no more of an identity than, oh, Julius Finsteraaron, did exactly this in winning the 1967 Masters.
For three of its four days, under absolutely glorious Dixie skies, the Masters vibrated with excitement. There was something for everybody. Jack Nicklaus, the defending champion, played like Barbara Nicklaus and missed the 36-hole cut. Arnold Palmer made enough meek charges to please his Army, or at least hold their ever-so-eager attention. For the sentimental, Ben Hogan played a historic nine holes, hitting the ball the way it ought to be hit. And during all of this, a pair of youngsters, Bert Yancey and Tony Jacklin—golfers, not songwriters—stormed the premises with enough frenetic action to give hope that everybody under 30 hasn't grown long hair and lain down in the street. But then came Brewer with that putter, and the Masters took on its newest look since the Battle of Hastings, or however long ago it was that Palmer and Nicklaus started winning it annually.
Brewer won the Masters over the last six holes on the final day, Sunday, when his blessed mallethead putter led him out of a jungle of contenders that included Bobby Nichols, Julius Boros and Yancey.
He won by suddenly scoring three birdies in a row at the 13th, 14th and 15th holes and then refusing to give up a one-stroke lead under the most testing pressure possible, coming in with a final round 67 and a 72-hole total of 280, eight strokes under par.
For a while Brewer's putter was the only thing keeping him on the scoreboard at all. He ended the day with 10 one-putt greens, and all but one of them was of such a length that they had to be paced, studied and sweated into the cup. There were no gimmes.
Brewer, of course, is the same fellow who came to the last green of the Masters a year ago with a one-stroke lead and there, attempting to play too cautiously, three-putted for a bogey 5. This threw him into a tie with Nicklaus and Tommy Jacobs, and in the playoff he was never a contender, shooting a 78. Which meant Sunday's victory was especially rewarding.
"I may not have looked very nervous out there," Brewer said afterwards, "but, man, I was shakin'. The first time I really thought about last year was when I was walkin' up the 17th fairway. I gave myself a little lecture or, you might say, a pep talk. Sorry, but I don't think you could print what I was sayin'."
Brewer, who grew up in Kentucky and now lives in Dallas, took the lead at the 13th hole when he smashed a four-wood onto the green in two and two-putted for a birdie.
"But it was still up there for a lot of folks to take until the 14th," said Brewer. "That was really the putt that got me so juiced up I started chokin'."
Brewer and Nichols, his playing companion, each jammed medium-iron shots into the 14th green for good putts at birdies, and each one, Brewer first from 20 feet, then Nichols from 15, rapped his ball into the hole. "I figured that eliminated everybody but Bobby, and I could see him," said Gay.