If it can be said that anybody actually lost the tournament of all of those who were in contention, that man would have to be Jim Jamieson. Jamieson, a good-natured 210-pounder, first came to everyone's attention at the Masters this year as an unlikely challenger to Jack Nicklaus. He finished in a tie for fifth, whereupon he was expected to disappear. But Jamieson is a better player than that, a man with good hand action on the club and a good fat man's swing in the tradition of Porky Oliver. He proved his performance at Augusta was no fluke when he won the Western Open in June and now here he was last Sunday, challenging both Player and Oakland Hills. In fact after 15 holes, Jamieson was three under par for the round, even for the tournament, and leading. Before he teed off he had said in reply to the question what are you going to do to win: "I'm going to play good and if that doesn't work I'll cheat." Jamieson himself may have been cheated by Oakland Hills on those last three brutal holes that Player conquered. More likely he simply succumbed to the pressure of a big championship.
Despite Player's performance, Oakland Hills wound up being the winner that it always has been. This was the fifth major championship played on the course Ben Hogan once called a monster (the other four were U.S. Opens), and no one yet has broken 280.
There are many so-called "great" courses in the country, and, whether anyone thinks Oakland Hills is greater than, say, Merion or Oakmont or Pebble Beach or Augusta National, to name only a few with similar reputations, depends on the individual's particular taste for water, trees, hills, etc.
Oakland Hills may lack the beauty of a Pebble Beach or an Augusta, and it might lack the subtle elegance of Merion, but what it doesn't lack is relentless difficulty. The fairways roll and toss, the greens swell and run like lightning in spots, it has been bunkered by the devil himself and it plays longer than most any city's going-home traffic.
Gary Player called it the toughest course in America, and to his credit he called it that before he won. Jack Nicklaus said pretty much the same thing when he stated that Oakland Hills had "less breathing room" than any championship course he had ever competed on.
Nicklaus played a rather indifferent PGA, obviously because he hadn't recovered from the shock of losing the British Open and thereby seeing his chances for a Grand Slam demolished. After two rounds of 72 and 75, he was so far behind the serious contenders that no sort of miracle seemed possible. During his Friday 75, Jack was actually seen yawning between shots. However, he sort of brought the championship to life on Saturday when he suddenly took on the look of Nicklaus at Augusta, Pebble Beach and Muirfield.
Nicklaus fired a four-under 31 on the front nine Saturday despite a three-putt green, and it sent him virtually racing down the fairways on the back side, with most of the record crowd bolstering his spirits with shouts of "Get 'em. Jack!" the way they used to shout for Arnold Palmer.
Striding down the 10th fairway, Nicklaus saw a friend, Desmond Muirhead, the golf course architect, in the gallery and yelled at him.
"Did you get to see any of that?" Jack said, meaning his 31.
Muirhead said no, he'd just arrived.