Jack, having won at Muirfield in 1966 and sternly aware of the narrow fairways and numerous well-deep bunkers, had decided the only way to play the course was defensively, with caution and patience. He would one-iron it and three-iron it from the tees. On only five holes, depending on the wind, would his woods come out of the bag. "What happened, basically," he said afterward, "is that I didn't hit the other clubs straight."
It was only during Wednesday's first round that Muirfield played like a British Open course should—long, windy and rainy. Nicklaus' 70 that day was a mad scramble as he missed seven fairways on the only day his game plan made sense. When the unusually glorious weather set in on Thursday, Jack woke up and said, "Ye gods, I'll have to shoot 65 just to stay in it. The course will be a piece of cake." Muirfield was bright with sun, windless—and short. But all Jack did was go on missing fairways. Still, the field did not run away from him. And he was due a good round, wasn't he? "I haven't wasted any of my good golf yet," Nicklaus said Thursday night.
He didn't waste any on Friday either. The weather was even more wonderful, and there really weren't that many contenders for him to worry about. The first-day leader, Peter Tupling—was a Tupling worth more than a shilling?—had slipped back the way Tuplings should. A few other British surprises were still around but they wouldn't last. It was only Nicklaus against Trevino, Jacklin, Sanders and Johnny Miller, who had holed a three-wood for a double eagle, and perhaps astonishing Dave Marr, back from nowhere.
Everyone felt that Friday would be the day Nicklaus would explode. Not so. Jack was still missing fairways and was well out of it, two over par going to the 16th hole at the very time Trevino and Jacklin were at their hottest. It was only through a miracle of his very own, a chip in at the 16th, another birdie at the 17th and a struggling par at the 18th, that Nicklaus got home with a 71 and even par through 54 holes. Granted, in any other British Open that might have been fine. But Super Mex and Super Limey and the weather were seeing to it that this was no ordinary championship.
By attacking Muirfield, Tony Jacklin had met some tragedies, among them his triple bogey on the 13th hole the second day, but he had also stored up some birdies and eagles. Trevino had bounced between birdies and bogeys all along until nothing but birdies turned up late Friday in that mind-bending finish of his. And it seemed clear that Nicklaus had waited too long to change his strategy. But even after he had lost, Jack disagreed, contending, "I'll always believe I played the course the right way and just didn't play well. What can I do about a guy who holes it out of bunkers and across greens?"
He can keep trying for the Grand Slam, which might only exist in a dream, after all. At least as long as Super Mex keeps popping up to interfere with history.