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One of the fascinating little problems created by the PGA being in February next year concerns the Masters. Which PGA champion would Augusta invite in '71—the one crowned at Southern Hills or the one crowned in Palm Beach Gardens? Well, it has decided to invite both—the low eight from Tulsa but only the winner from Palm Beach Gardens. On the other hand, the Palm Beach winner will have a longer ride as champion than any PGA champion ever. He will hold the title for a year and a half and be qualified for two Masters, U.S. Opens and British Opens.
At the same time, the Southern Hills champion will have the shortest reign of glory since President Garfield. For what everyone had to go through on the rugged Southern Hills layout, that hardly seems like enough. It was a course that could hold its own in any measure of what a great course is supposed to be. It had hills and dips, huge trees guarding entrances to old-fashioned bent-grass greens, and nearly every fairway had a bend, shaded creeks and ditches and ponds to look out for and matted Bermuda rough that was especially troublesome because the ball could sink down into it.
The course took its toll of many a good player, slowly putting Jack Nicklaus and Bill Casper and Dave Hill and the like out of contention. Those who didn't hit consistently straight last week could forget about their chances. What saved those who hung in there was the fact that the little greens did hold a good shot. The ball would bite into the bent and back up, as it did for Raymond Floyd and Dave Stockton on Saturday when they shot record-breaking rounds of 65 and 66 respectively.
Southern Hills, like most older courses, which seem always to be the best, offered the sort of variety in shotmaking that forced the golfer to think and plan and keep steadily busy. He would go from short approaches over trees to let-out holes where he had to reach for the three-wood and hammer the ball.
The 12th and 13th holes became crucial. At the 12th the golfer had to face a dogleg to the left off the tee, being fearful of a row of trees on the left and a slight hill on the right. Then his approach had to sneak down between some elms onto a small green that sat just behind a creek crossing in front. Here was the hole that destroyed Palmer on Friday when he was strolling around with a two-stroke lead on the field, acting like this was 1964 or something.
Arnold hit his second into the creek, but it didn't go all the way down. It hung on some soggy weeds. Up went his trousers to his knees, and he waded in to play it, perhaps unwisely. But he was leading and probably thought that, well, since this is obviously the old days, I'll just make a 3. He took a mighty slap at the marsh weeds, but to his surprise the ball moved only a few groaning feet. He made a double-bogey 6, a disaster from which he couldn't recover no matter how hard the Tulsa members of his nostalgic Army rooted.
As it turned out, those two shots could be called the two that Arnold lost by. Those two that the 12th hole took away from him on Friday, just when it had looked like the old days.
And in the end, the soap-opera stuff wasn't for Arnold at all. It was for Dave Stockton. There on the scenic 18th as Dave knelt down on the green, he looked at his short putt for a par and knew he could three-putt it and still win, and he thought: "I'm the PGA champion. I've done it." Then he looked across the green and saw his wife, Cathy, and he cried.
So did Arnie's Army. But, oh, well, they're used to it.