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Fergus took 70 shots—two under—to get around on Thursday, but he scored a 76. Later he would calculate that those six penalty shots cost him a guaranteed invitation to next year's Masters. The first 24 finishers get to come back, no matter what. Fergus finished tied for 37th; without the six-stroke penalty, he'd have come in tied for 19th.
Friday was Jack Nicklaus Day. If he had turned an opening-round 65 into a 70 on Thursday because he couldn't putt, he turned about a 74 into a 65 on Friday because he could putt and chip with his Phil Rodgers method, which, as far as esthetics go, produces the image of a man using a post-hole digger. In getting his four-stroke lead on the field through 36 holes, Nicklaus putted on the front nine and chipped on the back. He birdied four holes in a row, the 4th through the 7th, by rolling in putts of one foot, 20 feet, 17 feet and 20 feet, respectively. Suddenly, the new greens were no longer a big mystery or a big story.
Then on the back nine, down and around good old Amen Corner, Nicklaus began spraying iron shots all over the place. He had to call on his trusty chipping clubs to get up and down for pars at the 10th, 11th and 12th holes. From where he put himself he deserved three bogeys, but he made pars by chipping close enough to sink the putts. His best chip then came at the par-5 13th, a nasty little shot that had to bump and run, and he put it three feet from the cup for a birdie. In all, he one-putted seven greens on the back side, three of them for birdies.
Nicklaus was also the straight man for the biggest press-room laugh on Friday. There were four million typists and broadcasters to greet him in the interview area after his 65. Nicklaus took his seat at the microphone and looked at the crowd with obvious satisfaction and said, "Well, there are a few more people here today than there were yesterday."
At which point Art Spander of the San Francisco Examiner said, "We're waiting for Greg Norman."
Nicklaus finally laughed, too—after a steely pause.
Greg Norman? Well, he had the most colorful hair and background in this Masters, and he was very much in the tournament from start to finish, winding up in fourth place. Norman is a long-hitting Aussie with hair as golden as most surfers', which is what he used to be. He also used to be an Australian rules football player, and he didn't take up golf until he was 17. He is both long off the tee and straight for a big hitter, but his one wild drive into the woods on the 10th hole Sunday cost him a double-bogey 6 and kept him from being an even larger figure in the drama. Norman will be heard from on the U.S. tour.
At Augusta, he was this year's foreign celeb, Severiano Ballesteros having been last year's by winning. Seve missed the cut this time along with such other dignitaries as Lee Trevino, Andy Bean, Ed Sneed and Larry Nelson, who was fresh from winning at Greensboro. All Norman missed was a dye job on his hair to tone down the glare.
In retrospect, one thing was rather predictable. The new-old Augusta National was playing so tough because of the speedier and more mysterious putting surfaces that it was almost a lock that only a seasoned and multitalented golfer would win the '81 Masters. Except for Norman, familiar names populated the scoreboard all four days, and the two most familiar of all, Watson and Nicklaus, settled the issue with their own private melodrama stretched over a 36-hole stage.
Watson thought he won because on Sunday, the day that always counts the most, he never hit two really bad shots in a row. Exactly. After he came off a four-iron and landed in the creek on the 13th, he saved his par despite the penalty shot by deftly laying a wedge shot to within five feet of the cup and staring down the putt. Grace under pressure, they call it. Last Sunday, Watson and grace were lovebirds, strolling hand-in-hand through the Georgia pines.