Their opponents, Townsend and Bannerman, played as if unaware that in Palmer and Nicklaus they faced a pair that had won four World Cup championships and three PGA team titles. Both sides were hitting tightly accurate approach shots and following them with firm putts. When Nicklaus rolled in. a breathtaking putt of 80 feet across the 8th green, the U.S. pair found itself five under par. Superb. And one down. Unbelievable. It may have been frustrating for the Americans, but as Nicklaus observed later, "Think how discouraging it must have been for them to have birdied six of the first eight holes and only lead by one."
With that 80-foot putt, Nicklaus picked up just where it seemed clear that Palmer was ready to leave off. He had begun to hit tired shots, and it was left to Nicklaus to birdie the 360-yard 14th hole, evening the match with a wedge shot to within 18 inches of the flag and a skidding putt that just made it over the right edge of the cup. Nicklaus then won the match on the 456-yard closing hole with a seven-iron that faded in some 15 feet to the left of the flagstick and a birdie putt that dropped just as darkness was closing down over the course. Palmer did not hide his vast relief.
"Falling behind those two young guys made things especially difficult," he admitted later. "We were very conscious of the fact that we were in danger of losing. When you play against Lee Trevino and people of that caliber and lose, so what, it's no disgrace, but what would everybody start thinking if we lost to those two kids?"
The birdie putt by Nicklaus provided the U.S. with a solid four-point lead that held up despite a vigorous assault by the British in Saturday's 16 singles matches. Palmer, walking slowly and pausing to rest whenever he had the time or the chance, halved his morning match with Bannerman and in the afternoon lost to Oosterhuis, but by that time the U.S. was the winner.
" Jay Hebert, the U.S. nonplaying captain, never figured on having to use Arnold in all six matches, but the way things were going he just had to," said Trevino, who is still recovering from his appendectomy of a few weeks ago but played five matches himself.
Trevino turned in three wins, a loss and a tie. Dickinson won four out of five and Nicklaus won five straight after a loss with Dave Stockton on the opening morning. And a welcome surprise was J.C. Snead, who, making his first Ryder Cup appearance, won all four matches in which he took part.
Of the 12-man team, only Nicklaus and Palmer played all six matches. "Those British youngsters made it a hard week," Palmer said when it was all over. He was resplendent in white jacket, white trousers and a powder-blue shirt as he moved slowly through a tangle of gushing young women in the clubhouse lobby. "We all expected it to be a close match. It was tough, and from now on it will always be tough."
The right thing to say, definitely, but not a statement to stick in your mind like the one he had made on Friday. Relaxing over a beer after his fourth win, Palmer said, "Was I trying extra hard to win because they were just young—ah—kids? You've got to know I was."