- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The biggest thrill of Dougherty's week, aside from the way he played, was being introduced to ABC-TV's effusive Jim McKay. McKay stuck out his hand to congratulate the unknown after his 69, and Dougherty lit up.
"My God," Dougherty said, "You're...you're the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat...I've watched you all my life."
The first two days of the tournament were blessed with glorious weather, and this no doubt had something to do with the shocking scores that came flooding in. It appeared on Friday that between them Bruce Crampton and Hale Irwin would fire a low ball of 19.
First, Irwin came along with a 65, highlighted by a hole in one on the 12th. The ball was struck with a five-iron, for the record, and it took only one hop before disappearing into the cup. "It wasn't a fluke," Irwin said. "It was a hell of a good shot. It felt good, it looked good all the way and it went in."
Not long after, Crampton came along with a record 63, a round of good playing as well as good putting. He even had a bogey and missed a couple of short birdie putts, but still he shot seven under at Firestone. The round had given him a three-stroke lead in the tournament, but then came Saturday, which changed everything.
In the span of the first seven holes on that third round the championship had a new leader, because Nicklaus was making birdies and Crampton was making bogeys. Crampton had said he wouldn't be noticing Nicklaus on Saturday; he would only be trying to whip "that fellow named p-a-r." Well, the guy named p-a-r flattened Crampton with a 75 while Nicklaus was firing a 67 and taking a four-stroke lead, or what seemed to be a stranglehold on his 16th major title. Nicklaus bogeyed the last hole by three-putting or he would have had an even bigger lead, but then Jack couldn't very well complain after getting away with murder, armed robbery and kidnapping on Firestone's 16th hole.
What Nicklaus did on that long par-five hole was to turn a 20 into a remarkable five, and indeed it was the single hole that won him the championship. Jack played the 16th, or half of it at least, as wretchedly as he is capable of playing. On Firestone's 16th you can drive anywhere to the right and be safe. You can even hit it six fairways to the right and still be safe. Jack, naturally, drove to the left, up, down and over some trees and into a ravine even Firestone didn't know existed. Penalty. Shooting three and he is still 7,000 yards from the green.
In order to get any kind of shot whatsoever he walked about 50 yards behind the hazard to drop the ball. Whereupon he hit something that soared as far to the right as he had driven to the left. Now, playing four, he was almost directly behind a huge tree. His only hope was to hit the world's highest and longest nine-iron toward the green, and pray that it cleared the tree. It did, with inches to spare. He had reached the green in four, but he still was 30 feet from the pin, and in a place where half of the population of the United States has three-putted. Nicklaus, of course, made the putt for his par.
It is safe to say that from where Nicklaus was on Saturday with that tee shot on the 16th, no other golfer who ever lived could have rescued a par five—and the tournament. But of course Jack hasn't been a mortal for several years now.