Since the scores were fairly horrible, with only a bewildered amateur, Mike Reid, breaking par with his opening 67, the pros, one by one, and occasionally three by three, went looking for USGA officials to shout obscenities at.
Irwin suggested the USGA should be banned from its own Open, and January said he wished somebody would point a gun at his head and pull the trigger if he ever even entered another U.S. Open, and a lot of other pros said a lot of other things that do not generally appear in family magazines. Nicklaus, who made one birdie through the first three rounds and was never even the remotest factor in the championship, said at first that the course was not as bad as he had expected it to be, and then he said that maybe Joe Dey, the former executive director of the USGA, ought to be brought back to prepare the Open courses. This amused everyone who remembered the days when the pros at the Open spoke of Joe Dey in the same terms as they did of unraked bunkers.
The most fascinating confrontation on the issue took place at the scorer's tent on Thursday, late in the day, when J. C. Snead had completed his round of 73 and Mike Reid was playing the final hole. Snead, like so many others before him, had stormed off the last green and gone into the tent and told the USGA's assistant director, Frank Hannigan, what he thought of the course preparation.
By then Hannigan was a bit tired of hearing it. While he and Snead were in the midst of an exchange that had something to do with Hannigan's suggestion that Mr. Snead could pack a bag and leave if he didn't like the Open championship, Reid hit his second shot to the brutal 18th hole, a glorious four-iron that jammed in there about 12 feet from the pin—and this on a hole where most of the Western world had been taking double bogeys.
As Reid's ball nestled near the pin, Hannigan said to J. C. Snead, "Looks like the kid caught another flier."
Some felt the line was lost on a touring pro, but in effect it was all that needed to be said, even though Arnold Palmer came along later to endear himself to Atlanta forever by stating publicly that his complaining contemporaries were "stupid" and "crybabies."
Mercifully, the championship wound up being decided on an excellent layout and no one could complain about the stylish names that stole onto the leader-boards. A Mahaffey, a Weiskopf, a Geiberger, a Crenshaw, a Tom Watson, a Hubert Green and then a Jerry Pate, who hit a shot that not only had greatness written on it but credibility for a golf course and a tournament as well.