"How come you call him Owl?" asked Amarillo Slim Preston on the 18th tee. Slim was riding around the course in a cart checking his bets. On one match Slim said he was betting a Cadillac a hole. A $9,500 Cadillac, he said. "Don't he look like an owl to you?" Brunson said. "Naw, an owl is a wise old bird," said Slim.
"I thought I was wise until I got into this can," Baldwin said.
The 18th is a par 5. Doyle was at the front edge of the green in two. Baldwin threshed his ball out from under the tree. He was now in the fairway 190 yards from the green in two. If he lost the hole, he would be out $18,000 to Brunson. The day was lemon-colored. It was 117°, a record for the date in Las Vegas. The carts of the bet sweaters were drawn up around the green, which is guarded by sand traps and water. Baldwin does not have the training to deal with that situation in golf. He pulled out a four-iron and hit the ball five feet from the pin and saved his money with a birdie putt.
"Some guys can roar like a forest fire back in their hometown," Amarillo Slim said, "but out here with real big money up, so much dog comes out in 'em that they could catch every possum in Louisiana. Those would be the guys that grew up scraping and hustling and playing for every cent they had every day."
Slim doesn't play golf. But last year at the PGI he won $5,000 in a footrace with a football player. They raced from Jack Binion's tee shot to the green. Slim also won a bet from Leon Crump, who. Slim says, is the best good golfer in the world for money. Crump bet he could drive a golf ball over the top of the Hilton Hotel. He hit the eighth floor.
Brunson had some bad news in his match on the second day of last week's PGI that made Baldwin's birdie disappear from mind. Sam Simms from Nashville was five under par on the back nine. Simms was matched against Brunson, and the betting had been heavy.
"You might as well go back to Nashville, because that five under par of yours ain't getting you no more action here," Doyle said.
"The only time I'm out of action is when I'm out of money," Simms said. "It's music to a gambler's ears, the sound of suckers crying. Good thing this ain't 50 years ago. I know what you'd have done to me then."
"Damn right." Brunson said.