I'll tell you, it's easy to get a little touchy here in Greensboro. They've got tough spots—around the 7th, 16th and 18th holes—that are set up almost like picnic areas, and some of the fans sit there all day long, guzzling beer and eating hot dogs. It's certainly a minority who get raucous, but those few discourage a lot of players from coming to Greensboro each year.
APRIL 7, Augusta, Ga.—The azaleas are in bloom, the dogwood is blossoming and this little old Southern town is coming to life, just like it does every year for one week. It's hard to be depressed in this kind of setting. I played my first Masters in 1965, and I was absolutely awestruck. It must've taken me three hours to move from the registration desk out to the practice tee. That first year I was able to play a practice round with Henry Picard, Ralph Guldahl and Herman Keiser. Picard had won the Masters in 1938, Guldahl in 1939 and Keiser in 1946, and among them, with their permanent invitations, they'd played more than 160 rounds in the Masters. My round with them went faster than any round I've ever played in my life, it was so fascinating. They mentioned trees that had been knocked down by lightning and mounds that had been leveled, and they kept saying things like "Now here's where I made the shot that won me the Masters in 1939" or "Now here's where I had a putt to beat Nelson and it just slipped off the edge." And then Picard or Guldahl would line up the same putt and stroke it again and it'd slip off the edge again, and he'd shake his head sadly. For me, it was like participating in history. It was beautiful.
This course is beautiful, too, but it's not very difficult. I remember the first time I played it, I was kind of disappointed; I'd heard so much about how hard it was to score well in the Masters, but I didn't find the course very demanding. If you brought a young boy in here and blindfolded him and didn't tell him he was playing the Masters course, he'd think it was pretty easy and shoot a good score. The problem is that you don't play here blindfolded.
APRIL 13—The first major tournament of the year is over, and I sure didn't do much. I'm really wondering about my golf game. I picked up a couple of thousand dollars, so my official earnings for the year are now around $12,000, and my total earnings are just under $20,000. I'm probably somewhere around 40th on the official list. I've always been a slow starter—I've never won a tournament played earlier in the year than the Masters—but this is ridiculous.
What's wrong with me? Why can't I get the ball in the hole?
APRIL 18, Louisville—After a few quiet days at home, just paying my bills and taking my semiannual physical (the doctor told me I'm fine except for one thing; I didn't really need him to tell me I'm too fat), my father and Patty sat me down and gave me a talking to. "You can play a lot better than you've been playing," my father said.
"Frank," Patty said, "you can be the best golfer in the world. You can be No. 1 if you just try."
They both felt that I'm not setting my goals high enough, that I'm not pushing myself, that I'm content just to make a good check each week. They're both on my side—I know that—but they were saying that I've been too lazy, that I haven't worked hard enough.
I'm going to give it a try. I'm going to practice more than I've ever practiced. I'm setting myself new goals.
But I don't know about No. 1. I don't know if I can aim that high.