Admirers of the swing, grip and setup tend to think that nothing is beyond the grasp of Pate. Jerry has won two major championships, the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open, and he is the youngest (24) of those with pretensions to greatness. Pate is strong and cocky as well as stylish. A shoulder injury slowed him down this year, but that may have done him a favor. It gave him a chance to relax and get to be one of the guys.
Another good thing that happened to golf in 1977 was the return of Wadkins. Like Pate, Lanny has two majors now, the U.S. Amateur and the PGA he took from Gene Littler. By doing so, he tied none other than Nicklaus in a couple of odd achievements. Nicklaus and Wadkins are the only golfers ever to have won Amateur and PGA trophies. Also, by winning the PGA, Lanny made the Ryder Cup and World Cup teams. Before he turned pro, he played on the Walker Cup and World Amateur Cup teams. Nicklaus is the only other golfer to have been a member of those four international squads. Put that in your practice bag of trivia.
Lanny is the least stylish golfer of the youth corps, but he's the fastest player in the Western hemisphere and there is nothing wrong with trying to speed up a round. He's cocky like Pate and a lot more lippy, but he can be charming once you get to know him. Only Wadkins could have watched Weiskopf shoot a 29 on the first nine holes of the last round in the World Series and stand up to it, outlast it, and go on to fire a 65 of his own and demolish the course and the select field for the tour's richest first prize, $100,000. There's a gambler and a tough competitor in Wadkins, as well as a colorful character struggling to climb out in the form of a Southern-fried, grits-nourished Trevino.
The last of the youngsters who demand the most attention is Crenshaw, and in some ways he has become the most puzzling. He is supposed to have done what Watson, Pate and Wadkins have begun to do—collect major championships. He has yet to win one, however. Crenshaw has been close, which means he eventually will succeed, but for all his popularity, he is suffering a mild case of "Watsonitis." Tom and he are close friends and Watson's success may be affecting Ben's game. Even so Crenshaw is blessed with a putting touch that makes even Nicklaus swoon. But he has problems to overcome: keeping his tee shot on the planet when he most needs to, and harnessing a temper of the kind that Bobby Jones once had and described as "searing the soul."
None of this is to suggest that Lietzke, Hayes, Kratzert or any number of others can't use 1978 to move into the elite, and it is not to insinuate that such mainstays of the tour as Weiskopf, Green, Hale Irwin and Raymond Floyd—even Miller, wherever he is—have become aged and decrepit overnight. Like Hogan, who blossomed late in his career, their grandest moments may still be ahead of them.
As for the tour itself, it is actually going to change very little. We can expect the TPC to attract the strongest field of the year and to grow in stature, with Jacksonville as a permanent home and mid-March as a permanent date. The Tournament of Champions at La Costa will continue to be golf's equivalent of the All-Star Game. A Philadelphia or Pleasant Valley Classic will continue to be "designated" immediately after the British Open, as if the sponsors want to punish those U.S. pros who have a sense of history. As for the World Series and everyone's hopes for it to rise in stature and mark at least the emotional end of the year, that's going to take time. The event has a nice hunk of sculpture for a trophy and a purse that would make even an Arab blink, but no more than 20 players have qualified for the field to date. So all that it has transcended so far is a Grand Slam consisting of Kemper, Quad Cities, Doral and Hartford.
But that's a start, Deane.