All that was left, then, to frazzle the nerves and curdle two years of work was the weather. For reasons of tradition, as Elbin explained last week, the PGA feels it is essential to conduct its championship in midsummer, generally in some steamy middle-western heat bowl where a souffl� would rise in seconds. For years PGA sufferers have been suggesting that the tournament would have more comfort and a great deal more character if it were played in the autumn as a climax to the tournament season. "This should be a fall tournament," Jack Nicklaus argued one day at Columbine after stepping out of the air-cooled locker room into oven temperature. "Something to wind up the tournament year. Then it would have some meaning. Until they do that, it is just another stop on the summer tour."
The daily 90� temperatures and the hot mountain sun glaring out of a cloudless sky set the mood of the tournament. On Friday, Dan Sikes, who was in the midst of his second fine sub-par round and tied for second place at the time, nearly collapsed on the 13th hole. He rallied for a par on that hole, a birdie on the next and another birdie 3 on the 17th for an excellent 70, but he was too weak at the end to endure the customary press conference that is part of the ritual of the leading scorers. In the same pairing, defending champion Al Geiberger, who normally sustains his skinny frame with the peanut-butter sandwiches he totes in his golf bag, almost toppled over while teeing up his ball at the 17th hole. When he finally did straighten up, he was too limp to get his hands through the shot and drove the ball out of bounds for a two-stroke penalty.
Jack Nicklaus, who had started the day in second place only a stroke behind Dave Hill's course record of 66 on opening day, stumbled to a 75. "This is the toughest time I've ever had adjusting to the time change," Jack complained, referring to the fact that he had just flown back from England after an unsuccessful defense of his British Open title. "Then there is the altitude and the heat. I don't have any zip, and I've never slept worse in my life."
It was the golf course that suffered most from the weather. On Thursday morning when play started, the greens and fairways were still relatively soft, but by Friday the course was like a superhighway. Drives bounded through the fairways into the rough and approach shots sprang like crickets off the unyielding greens. Wise old hands like Palmer, who managed to stay in contention by adding a 71 to his opening 70, abandoned their drivers on many tees in favor of spoons and irons.
Even so, Tommy Aaron, who teed off early, shaved another stroke off the course record with a 65, including an astonishing streak of eight 3s in nine holes. That gave Aaron, who has often led but never won a pro tournament, an impressive four-stroke lead. After him came Hill, Sikes and a young club pro named Don Bies. Palmer was fifth and a stroke behind him was Nicklaus, two sharks waiting for the fish to fall back. There was no particular reason to notice Don January, who was tied for eighth, and no reason whatsoever to know that Don Massengale was even on the golf course.
On Saturday Aaron turned an incipient runaway into a traffic jam, rejoining the pack with a shaky 76. Aaron's troubles began as he started the back nine with his lead relatively intact. On the 10th hole, a 199-yard par-3 over water, he hit his tee shot far off line, recovered poorly and wound up with a double bogey 5. He had another bogey on the 14th and finished the back nine in 39. Playing with him, Dan Sikes shot a steady 70, good enough for a two-stroke lead. It was a situation that Sikes, a lawyer who had led the touring pros' battle against the PGA, thoroughly enjoyed.
Palmer started birdie, birdie but had to struggle to finish with a 72 and a tie for fifth, four strokes behind Sikes. Thanks to a late surge of birdie putts from the great white putter that won him the Open at Baltusrol, Nicklaus managed a 69 that put him in a second-place tie with Aaron. There was still no reason to notice January, tied for fifth, or Massengale, tied for 11th.
It was Sunday that the galleries learned Don Massengale was very much in the tournament. A sturdy, 30-year-old Texan whose reputation was confined to his home town of Jacksboro until he won the 1966 Crosby, Massengale teed off almost an hour in front of the leaders. He made the turn in 33, then collected four more birdies on the back nine for a 66. That brought him in at 281—seven under par for the tournament—and it was up to everyone else to catch him.
Sikes was at the 13th green when he glanced at a nearby scoreboard and saw that his major threat was not Nicklaus, playing directly ahead of him and steadily, nor Aaron, playing with him and miserably, but Massengale, enjoying the cool of the clubhouse. Sikes was eight under at the moment, but he promptly three-putted from 50 feet and lost his lead. Shooting ragged golf from then on, Sikes bogeyed the 15th, rallied with a birdie at 16, but badly hooked a drive on the 17th and took another bogey when his second shot landed in a spectator's chair. That was one bogey too many.
Playing along with Nicklaus was Don January, but, of course, it was Nicklaus everyone at Columbine was watching. Jack barely missed an eagle at the 13th hole, but the tap-in birdie brought him within a stroke of the leaders. A bogey immediately afterward dropped him two strokes back, where he had been more or less mired throughout the afternoon. A final birdie at the 17th gave him a shot at a tie, but a longish putt for his birdie on the 18th missed by a couple of inches. So Jack shook his head, smiled politely and headed for the airport.