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Obviously, the press and most of the fans were rooting for either Nicklaus, Trevino or Palmer, so everyone could call this the greatest Open ever played, which it was close to being. Sunday's pairings, strictly luck, put Lee in with Jack, which meant that Nicklaus was in a spot to be voodooed again by Trevino, who had whipped him at Merion last year in a classic head-to-head playoff. That was the day Trevino pulled out the toy snake and practically talked Jack out of the title, or so it seemed. And Lee was joking again at Pebble all week, even though he was in ill health for real, recovering from near pneumonia.
Nicklaus smiled. And with the confidence that only he has, he said quietly, "The only thing I'm going to throw at these guys today is my golf game."
No tricks worked for Trevino, although on the practice tee he tried, nevertheless. He kept hollering at Palmer, "Is your airline on strike? Your pilot told me he was tired of being hijacked to Tijuana."
And when Nicklaus came out to hit a few balls before the final round right next to Lee, the defending champion immediately started intentionally topping three-woods, trick shot style.
"Look at that," Trevino chirped. "I can't get 'em up, Jack."
Nicklaus did giggle appreciatively, but he was not to be too distracted from the thing he had come to the Monterey Peninsula a week early to do. Like win.
For a while on Sunday, it looked as if it might be laughingly easy. Very quickly, everybody started making bogeys and double bogeys. And when Nicklaus made his only really long putt of the week at the 7th green on Sunday, a 25-footer for a birdie, he' was even par and two strokes ahead of the field.
One of the reasons Nicklaus was up there at that point was that he had managed to avoid the quick catastrophe, the double bogey, even the triple bogey, or albatross, throughout. A man like Homero Blancas, for example, would have been up there, too, if it hadn't been for such things. Blancas made more birdies than anybody, even Nicklaus, but for the 72 holes of the championship Homero could look back on just four holes and see nine whopping strokes lost to par. He made three double bogeys and one triple, and wound up only five shots back of Nicklaus.
But now it was Jack's turn. Suddenly, midway in the last round, Pebble Beach finally and brutally got to him. A gust of wind lashed at him as he drove from the 10th tee, now with a four-stroke lead, and there went the ball, the Open, the Grand Slam, all the preparation soaring out to sea—or so it seemed. There Jack stood in wind-whipped splendor, exposed as mortal. He dropped another ball, mortal fashion, and fired his next shot. It was gale-tossed and oceanward again, ending up on the edge of a cliff, but playable. He went to fetch it, and at this point Pebble Beach had backed him to the sea. It added up to a double bogey. Palmer had a chance if a putt would drop. And Crampton was hanging in there. Even Trevino could rally.