The one thing that always has impressed the pros about Simons is his ability to manage his own game. "He knows what he can do and what he can't do," Nicklaus said, "and he never tries to do the impossible." When he sets up over the ball, Simons looks as though he is resting in a chair, his backside protruding sharply, but he has a more solid, more compact swing than most of the other top amateurs who have turned pro recently, including Lanny Wadkins and Steve Melnyk.
Simons normally fades the ball, like Nicklaus, but last week he found that as the pressure increased he began to pull his shots. "I also seemed to lose all sense of touch when the pressure became really tense," he said. "My putts would turn up short, way short, and, even though I'd measure the distance for my chips, I'd hit them way short or way long."
Off the course, Simons was hounded by lawyers and agents who would like to represent his future interests. For a fee, of course. "Right now I don't know anything about their game," Simons said after making dinner arrangements with Ed Barner, who represents Casper, John Miller and Jerry Heard among others. "I'm just going to tell them, 'Draw up your best contract, men, and I'll take my pick.' " Even though Simons made the cut at Westchester and as a rule would be permitted to play in the next event on the tour, he will not play in another PGA-sponsored tournament until at least November.
"I've used up all my three sponsors' exemptions for this year," he said, "and now I've got to go through the PGA schools." The regional will be held at Rockville, Md. the last week of September, and then the final qualifier will be at Napa, Calif. the last week of October. "Some strong players haven't made it through the schools," Simons said. "A whole year rides on them." If he fails? Simons does not like to entertain the question.
While Simons and Nevil worried about Nicklaus most of the time, Jack spent a routine week returning to earth. "You can't believe what it has been like the last four months," he said at dinner Saturday night. "They were talking and writing about the Grand Slam even before I played the Masters. After this tournament I'm going home for two weeks. I've only been home for three days since the beginning of June. Believe me, that won't happen again."
The next day he went out and shot a calm 68, which together with his 65-67-70 gave him a 270, lowest score on the tour this year. Although Nevil trailed by only one stroke through part of the round and Colbert put on his brilliant closing drive—five birdies and two eagles (one of them a hole in one) for a 65—Nicklaus never appeared less than a winner. On the final hole, a par 5, he gave the large gallery at the 18th green a marvelous demonstration of Nicklaus power, hitting two tremendous woods that left him 25 feet from the pin. He missed his eagle putt, but the tap-in birdie gave him the victory over Colbert by a comfortable three strokes.
When he headed for Florida Sunday night, he left with $240,415 in earnings for the year, only $4,075 short of the record $244,490 he amassed last year. Nicklaus has played in 15 U.S. tournaments in 1972, has won five of them and finished second three other times and has averaged roughly $16,000 an event. He plans to play in at least five more tournaments this year and thus has an excellent chance of topping the $300,000 mark.
"The rest of us," said Jim Simons, "just dream of such things."