Despite all of this, the Columbus fans endured and turned out in record numbers. They were there when it was damp and muggy, there when it was windy, and they were there on Sunday when it became football weather—mostly gray, breezy and cold. Still, Nicklaus knew he had a problem for future tournaments. Like finding some land closer to the premises, draining it and paving it so that automobiles can be accommodated regardless of the weather.
As for the course, it more than held its own, even though the players were allowed to improve their lies the first two rounds, or play the game "hands on," as they say, which is possibly the worst new expression in golf. The result was more sub-par rounds than ever, and fewer rounds in the 80s. One of the reasons was that the soft fairways kept a lot of drives from bouncing into trouble. If you got a one-yard roll with a driver, you were lucky. You almost had to "carry" the ball into trouble. But the Muirfield course is so splendid an architectural achievement that there is plenty of golf left after the tee shot. Irons must be exact to avoid bunkers, water, trees and dangerous putts. For example, after the second round, Roger Maltbie, who won the Memorial in 1976, its inaugural year, came into the locker room and said, "I'll tell you why this is some golf course. I just played 18 holes improving my lie, never hit a bad shot and what it added up to was 76."
Nicklaus wants terribly for the Memorial to become a "major championship." The tournament certainly has the course, the atmosphere and annually a good enough field for it to qualify as such. The only question is whether the golf world needs another major. If it does, then the race is essentially between the Memorial and the Tournament Players Championship, and right now the TPC has the edge, being a "designated" event—meaning that everybody has to show up. Last week the Memorial was without Lee Trevino and Lanny Wadkins, the PGA champion. Both had reasons for being absent, but players of their stature don't skip a major. Thus, Jack probably has some public relations work ahead of him as well as a need to solve the parking problem.
On this subject, Gary Player had a thought. "Golf will never have a fifth major," he said. "You can't start up a major today that Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen never had a chance to win."
A brutal course won the first two Memorials, and weather teamed with Jim Simons to win the third. Each year the tournament has honored a golfing great: Jones, Hagen. Francis Ouimet. Instead of Sarazen for 1979, how about Bantam Ben Shultz, or whatever his name was, who drove the most buses from the drive-in to the course?