As the halfway Crosby leader, Green said the spotlight would definitely create a problem for him. "I've got to keep my mental mind in the right place," he said seriously, refusing to comment on his physical mind.
On Saturday, Green shot a one under 71 at Cypress Point. He struggled to a four over 76 on Sunday, winding up in a tie for seventh, a notch below his final-round playing partner, Nicklaus, who by winning $11,700 passed the $4 million mark in prize money.
Last week was the first time this year that Nicklaus and Watson have appeared in the same tournament, and they were, after all, returning to the site of the 1982 U.S. Open, in which Watson's chip shot on the 71st hole had won another of their classic duels. Unfortunately, the tameness of the courses disarmed them, and neither was a serious contender. Not that each man didn't have his moment. Nicklaus fired a 66 at Pebble on Saturday, which drew him to within five shots of Kite, but it was nothing to get excited about, he said, because "we aren't playing the real Pebble, not when you can put your hands on the ball."
Watson struck a shot on Thursday at Cypress that no one ever got his hands on. His nine-iron on the 18th got caught up in a tree and stayed there. It cost him a penalty shot, a double bogey and a share of the lead. He ended up with a 67 instead of a 65. "My game's kind of up in the air," he remarked. Watson finished tied with Green for seventh.
No player had looked less elite than Kite following the Crosby's first two rounds. He was seven strokes off the lead after a 69 and 72, and he'd missed the cut at Phoenix the week before—a genuine rarity for Kite. The night before his 62, Kite and his wife, Christy, had dinner with friends at a small restaurant in Carmel, and he said, "I'm trying to find a golf game." He didn't think it had strayed very far because he'd had five sub-par rounds in the Hope in late January, and except for a brief stretch of bad holes, he hadn't played all that poorly at Phoenix. "I'm kind of waiting for something to happen," he said.
Something did. Here's how you play Pebble Beach in 62 strokes: Drive, six-iron and 6-foot birdie at the 1st; chip to five feet and sink the putt for a birdie at the 2nd; two-putt for a par from 15 feet at the 3rd; two-putt for a par from 12 feet at the 4th; two-putt for a par from 30 feet at the 5th; wedge to three feet and sink the birdie putt at the 6th; eight-iron to 25 feet and sink the birdie putt at the 7th; six-iron to six feet and sink the birdie putt at the 8th; two-putt for par after a four-wood second at the rugged 9th. Turn in 31, gather momentum.
On the back side, Kite saved par at the 10th with a bunker shot and an 8-foot putt. Then he was off again: Nine-iron and 6-foot birdie putt at the 11th; three-iron and 35-foot birdie putt at the 12th; five-iron and 12-foot birdie putt at the 13th; wedge to one foot and "slip that baby in" for a birdie at the 14th; pitch in with a wedge from 40 yards for a birdie at the 15th—that'll sure save putts—chip to three feet and save par at the 16th; blast out of a bunker and sink a 10-foot putt to save par at the 17th; two-putt for a par from 18 feet at the 18th. Back in 31. "I can't tell you how much fun it is to shoot 62 at Pebble Beach with people cheering for you," Kite said afterward.
The question of the asterisk was brought up because Kite's 62 was aided and abetted by all the housekeeping the players were allowed to do before hitting their fairway shots. "There's no question it was easier," he said. "But in five years, nobody's going to remember that I got to lift, clean and place. All they'll see is the 62 in the book. Heck, in five years all I'll remember is the number."