The grand image of the Masters, as most everybody knows, is that of a lot of genteel folk shuffling about all week being concerned about the bloom of the dogwood until late Sunday afternoon when Jack Nicklaus wins again. Nicklaus either wins or he almost wins or he would have won if something rococo had not happened—like Jack's four-iron turning into a kitchen mop or like, say, Charles Coody. But Nicklaus wins anyhow, even when he does not get the green coat, because he owns the people now and the tournament in the same way that Arnold Palmer used to. So that's it for the 1973 Masters. End of story.
Well, maybe not. Here's a fantasy. It is the final Sunday again and the dogwood is doing fine, along with the wisteria and the azaleas. So is Nicklaus. He has lapped most of the field. His hair is golden and fluffy and he is smiling because people are falling off the leader boards like Shriners off a hotel mezzanine. Palmer's jet has already flown over, heading back to Latrobe. Bert Yancey is shooting 61, but he started too far back. It looks as if the amateur Ben Crenshaw, who is only 12 years old, will finish second. Bruce Crampton has been disqualified for sawing the legs off a television tower. Johnny Miller has withdrawn to pose for some ads and take a screen test. Gay Brewer has been called in by the FBI to have his graphite shafts examined. It is all over. All Nicklaus has to do is play even bogey from the 15th in, and—wait a second. What's this? Why are they putting Tom Weiskopf's name up on the boards? Didn't Weiskopf get thrown out of the tournament on Friday for saying "Jesus Christ Superstar" in front of Joe Dey?
But they are putting Weiskopf's name up, just the same. He did what? Is that confirmed? Fantastic. Tom Weiskopf, despite a penalty for filling Bob Goal-by's golf bag with bunker sand and another for intentionally trampling a bed of yellow jasmine, has snatched the lead from Nicklaus. He has just played Amen Corner in 2-2-1-3: eagle, eagle, ace, eagle. Tom drove the 470-yard 10th and one-putted, drove the 445-yard 11th and one-putted, holed out a sand wedge at the 155-yard 12th and hit a driver, a nine-iron and a two-inch putt at the 475-yard 13th.
Actually, it isn't surprising. We have always known Weiskopf had the length and the desire if he could just control his temper. And now, he is doing it. Pretty much, anyhow. Weiskopf plays on in and wins, shooting the back nine in 22, thereby overcoming a somewhat sloppy front side in which he drew four more penalty strokes for stepping on Goalby's ball and unwittingly shoving his wife Jeanne, whom he failed to recognize, over the precipice of the 6th tee for saying "Hi."
As the fantasy ends, Nicklaus ceremoniously slips the winner's green coat on Weiskopf, who in turn says, "You've had it in golf, Jack. Good luck in the real-estate business." And with that Tom produces a submachine gun and riddles half the people on the veranda, remarking, "Hope I got a few writers with that volley."
In terms of real images, not dreams, it is difficult to think of a fiery, restless, sometimes pouting Tom Weiskopf being a suitable winner for the tranquil, stately, aristocratic Masters. It is like contemplating Lee Trevino presiding over a session of Parliament. And yet, if you want to deal in statistics and whatever may be hidden there, Tom Weiskopf on past performance at Augusta as well as on his imposing talents looms—sometimes he lurks but mainly he looms—as A Very Serious and Distinct Masters Possibility.
The trouble with Weiskopf is that he tends to loom more than win. He has been looming as the next Nicklaus for six years now and he is still searching for his first major championship. On the other hand, evidence continues to mount that Weiskopf is more than ready, particularly at Augusta, a course that is perfectly tailored for his long, high tee shots—he is longer than Nicklaus—and his splendid all-round game. Ready, of course, if he is not angry or distracted.
Statistic: In the last five Masters (which constitute Weiskopf's Augusta history) he has shot 11 subpar rounds out of the 20 played. Only Nicklaus has more. One more.
Statistic: Weiskopf's stroke average for the five tournaments is 71.6, second only to Nicklaus.
Statistic: Weiskopf has twice tied for second in the Masters, including last year; he has never been out of the top 24; and he has yet to shoot a competitive round of worse than 74.