But all of this kind of nonsense was quickly forgotten on the third hole. Nicklaus hit some kind of approach shot that flew the green by half a mile. He took a bogey and he was headed for the same 73 he had posted on Saturday, which eventually led to a tie for third place with Larry Ziegler, who plugged along like the tour veteran he is.
One thing that helped dispel the notion that Floyd would collapse was that he was still playing grand golf. When he faltered with a bogey at the 4th, he slammed back with a birdie at the 5th. And that was the end of the faltering. His tee shots continued to be as accurate as they had been in the previous three rounds, his irons were rapier sharp and his putter had everything crowding the cups or disappearing into them. Floyd's pars became routine, and then he had the audacity to roll in another biggie at the treacherous par-3 12th, the hole where Player toppled over backward into the water on Saturday, a hole fancied as the home of double and triple bogeys. And it was ever so appropriate that Floyd should ram a final birdie into the 15th hole and save his par at the 17th, the two putts that completed the assault on Nicklaus' 72-hole record.
Never during the last round did Floyd ever lead by fewer than seven strokes, and at one point he had put 10 shots between himself and the men who were competing in the other Masters.
For the kind of dazzling glamour and thrills the Masters is accustomed to, Sunday's throngs had to turn their attention to Crenshaw. This fresh-faced, likable young Texan with the big swing, the glorious putting touch and the nature of a gambler had gone around with the honesty and sincerity on his face that Arnold Palmer virtually patented.
And like the young Palmer, Crenshaw went around making swarms of birdies and equal swarms of bogeys. When he eliminates the mistakes, golf may have its next new hero who does not have to lose weight and let his hair grow, as Nicklaus did, or who is not withdrawn like Miller, or funny like Trevino, or angry like Weiskopf or as foreign as Player.
Crenshaw provided the only excitement of the last round, firing the day's low score, a five-under 67, which swept him into second place by three strokes. He did most of it on three straight holes on the back nine, from the 13th through the 15th, as if he had learned from Palmer to save himself for television.
"Sure was fun," Ben said later. "I was just freewheeling it. Raymond was so far ahead I could just let it go."
Crenshaw first let it go with a 250-yard three-wood shot into the 13th green. He took the club back as far as he could take it without having it pull him off the ground, and he brought it around and hit the ball with a mammoth crunch. The ball bored into the wind and plopped onto the edge of the green, no more than 20 feet from the flag. And Ben then did something he does perhaps better than anyone. With his slow backstroke and delicate feel, he rapped the eagle putt home.
On the next hole he did something else he is noted for: he drove wildly into the trees on the right, and he had to work a choked-down two-iron low with a 50-yard fade on it—not the easiest of shots—to come within sparring distance of the 14th green. The ball ran up and onto the green about 12 feet from the cup, and Crenshaw made this one for a birdie.
Well, naturally, there were probably some Crenshaw followers who may have been thinking at this point, "Let's see, another eagle at 15, a hole in one at 16 and two more birdies on 17 and 18...."