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After walking off the final green Sunday in Atlanta, Nelson said, "It helped for me to be paired with Fuzzy. I like his attitude about the game, his sense of humor. He kept both of us loose, whether I looked like it or not."
Fuzzy began loosening up the locker room before the last round. Jerry Pate, who had won the U.S. Open on the same course in 1976, had a comment about Zoeller's new hairdo.
"I've seen more hair on the back of my dog," said Pate.
"Yeah?" Fuzzy said. "How about you? Ever seen a bald-headed dog?"
"Hey, Nelly, if you tote that thing yourself, I'll have a shot at you today," Fuzzy yelled.
Nelson grinned and kept walking. He didn't grin again until the last hole, not so much that anyone could tell, anyhow. This gave him something more in common with Graham, who had put the U.S. Open at Merion into a snooze, and Rogers, who split so many fairways at Sandwich that the British Open became a bore. Graham waltzed home by three strokes in Philadelphia, and Rogers buried everyone by four strokes in England, and now Nelson had done it to the PGA field by four strokes with his 273, seven under par.
This was a lower winning total than anyone expected, and the soft greens were the reason. The greens weren't just soft from the rain that twice delayed play on Thursday and Friday. They are bent-grass greens, and bent-grass greens in the South are bound to be soft. This sometimes doesn't favor the more skilled ball hitters. It's an equalizer. Going into soft, holding greens, you simply have to hit the ball solid and have the right distance; you don't have to play "talent" shots with the irons.
To some extent, the soft greens at Atlanta explained the scoreboard that continually lacked a certain marquee value. Jack Nicklaus did tie for fourth, but he was never a factor. Tom Watson missed the cut for the first time in a major since the '79 Open. Three noteworthy chaps, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Bill Rogers, didn't make the cut until Saturday morning when, in the rain-delayed finish of the second round, Lou Graham triple bogeyed the last hole and Brad Bryant double bogeyed it.
Dart-throwing greens had nothing to do with why Lee Trevino missed the cut and everything else after a first-round 74. That happened because he failed to sign his scorecard. One reason he didn't was that Tom Weiskopf signed it for him. There was much confusion in the scoring tent after Trevino, Weiskopf and Lanny Wadkins completed their round. The cards were passed back and forth and numbers were corrected. Weiskopf signed all three cards and Lanny signed two of them. Trevino thought he signed his card, but didn't. The error escaped notice until later in the day, when Trevino was automatically disqualified.