It was the kind of course where you could envision a Ben Hogan really working and managing a round of golf. You had to stay left here and stay right there, be short this time, get around the corner and play to the side of the green, regardless of the pin, so you could putt with the grain.
All of this took a couple of the big hitters out of the tournament right away. Jack Nicklaus, with the aid of a 120-yard, left-handed, upside-down seven-iron—he was up against a tree trunk—survived the first day with a 71 but not the second. He shot a 79 and missed the cut for the third time in a major championship. (Previously, he had missed at the U.S. Open at Brookline in 1963 and at the Masters in 1967.) After his first round he went to Hemisfair, a sort of mini-World's Fair going on in San Antonio across the alley from the Alamo, and perhaps, as both Jack and the song said, he stayed too long at the fair.
"I just played really sloppy," he said. "I certainly didn't expect to after playing pretty good at Oak Hill and Carnoustie. These weren't my favorite kind of greens, and I'm not overfond of courses where you have to lay up a lot."
Tom Weiskopf, another of the boomers and a man who had won two tournaments on this year's tour, managed to let Pecan Valley annoy him even more. He shot 77-82 and went home.
But if Pecan Valley was getting to some of the long players, it didn't get to all of them. Marty Fleckman, for example, can hit the drive right up there with Nicklaus and Weiskopf and, surprisingly, he was either the leader or tied for the lead through the first three rounds. Fleckman, who is in his first full year on the tour as a pro, took an early lead with a 66. He followed it with a 72, after a double-bogey six on the 18th, and was tied with steady Frank Beard. Fleckman shot another 72 and was still tied with Beard after 54 holes, Beard having fired rounds of 68-70-72. Fleckman was playing smart, and Beard was playing smoothly, hitting more fairways than anyone else, and both had a reputation, being Texans, of putting well on Bermuda greens.
As a matter of fact, as the last round began, the top eight or so players in contention all had reputations of being good finesse players or straight hitters or were experienced, as in the cases of Boros and Palmer, and Pecan Valley's members could certainly take some pride in the fact that their course was responsible. After all, this was what golf was all about, wasn't it?
One of those bracketed in a seven-way tie for third behind the co-leaders through 54 holes was Lee Trevino, the happy-go-lucky character who won the Open in Rochester and gave golf a shot of Methedrine. Trevino scrambled all through the pecans during the first three rounds, waving at his Fleas, chatting with most everybody, fungoing golf balls from the practice tee with his family size Dr Pepper bottle and generally being the likable, comical guy that he is. He also shot 69-71-72.
He had his usual collection of wisecracks and headline grabbers for the gallery. "If I win, I'm gonna throw a picnic for 25,000 kids," he announced. "Naw, I didn't bring my wife here. Do you take a hamburger to a banquet? I didn't take a six-pack to Milwaukee, did I?"
For the last round, when he was paired with Palmer—it would be the Army vs. the Fleas, everybody said—Lee wore the red and black ensemble he wore at Rochester—but he didn't have the same swing, or luck. He double-bogeyed the 1st hole and then the 6th, and as the day wore on, he slowly faded into the background, shooting a 76 and finishing tied for 23rd.
Fleckman, who at 24 is half Boros' age, got off to a good start, with a birdie at the 2nd hole. For a while there the former University of Houston star, who wears a cap he must have inherited from Hogan and takes pointers from Byron Nelson, opened a two-stroke lead on the field. Palmer was one-under at the time, after his only birdie of the day at the 4th hole, but still two back. Boros was three over par, after a bogey at the second, and he didn't look like he was going to do anything about it.