SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
August 18, 1975
It takes a telescope to spot Jack Nicklaus, whose fourth PGA win and 16th major title put him light years above mere earthlings
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August 18, 1975

Swinging On A Star

It takes a telescope to spot Jack Nicklaus, whose fourth PGA win and 16th major title put him light years above mere earthlings

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He could have been had last Sunday, but he wasn't. The putts simply refused to drop for Weiskopf or Crampton, and the shots Jack needed were right there when he had to have them. Who else can win with a double bogey on 18?

Crampton said it pretty well. "We all suffer from human deficiencies. Jack just suffers from fewer of them. He wouldn't have made a six at the last hole, if he had needed something better."

Jack was asked if that were true. "I wouldn't have," he said, winking.

The Firestone course, for all of the drama it has been host to, has never been regarded by the players as one which deserves to rank among the country's most cherished or intriguing layouts. The reason is that it is so relentlessly dull. More drivers and spoons have been worn out on Firestone than on any other tournament course in the U.S. The two par 5s are sort of O.K. There is one you can reach and one you can't. But the par 4s and the par 3s, one after the other, seem to be the same hole. Long and longer.

This was a course that Robert Trent Jones redesigned, and every time the players sit around and try to name their favorite hole, someone will say, "I guess I like the 12th. It's the only one Trent didn't change." Accurate or not, it is meant to be a joke. Golfers like to joke about Trent Jones the way they like to joke about incurable disease. Actually, Firestone has a very exciting and certainly more scenic course right across the street, Firestone North. It has no fewer than 10 water holes, a number of devilish options. Trent Jones designed this one, too, and it happens to be one of his very best. And the only reason the Firestone people, who have given so much to golf and who happen to know how to run a tournament about as well as anybody, have never staged the American Golf Classic or World Series of Golf—or even a National PGA—on Firestone North is that they are sentimental about the older premises.

Last week the evidence was that they had made the right decision in using the same old course. It produced a unique PGA, one that drew some thrilling golf from the bigger names, one that produced the usual unsung heroes and one that even had some record scoring.

The first round got off to the kind of start that so many major championships do. A Mark Hayes led with a 67, a Bob Benson had a 68 and a Bob Wynn had a 69, as did an Ed Dougherty. These were the more unfamiliar of the names that hovered under or around Firestone's par of 70. Surprisingly enough, it was Dougherty's name that would linger the longest among the elite who took over control of the tournament. After three rounds Dougherty was still among the leaders, and played in the Sunday threesome with Nicklaus and Irwin. And by then the golfing community had learned considerable about him. He had become, in a sense, the comic relief of the week.

Dougherty, it turned out, is a 27-year-old rookie who has been playing the game for only six years. He had got into the PGA by finishing 12th in the club pro's championship. He had made the cut in only four tournaments. He has not been through the PGA's qualifying school, and he had become a Class A player only through his labors in the golf shop. He is one of those Monday qualifiers.

When he first wandered into the press tent at Firestone with his mustache, shaggy hair and grin, however, he became a charmer because of his honesty and wide-eyed wit. Someone asked if he had ever been on a leader board before, and he said, "Yeah, at Westchester I made four birdies in a row, but then I started going bad, so while one guy was still putting up the Y, another guy was taking down the D."

Once, he said, he'd had a sponsor who loaned him $2,500, but the guy was caddying for him, and they started arguing about club selections. "It's my shot," Dougherty would say. "It's my money," the guy would reply. Dougherty fired him.

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