Rogers' nickname "Buck" was inherited from his father, who probably got it from the comic strip during his football-playing days at Baylor back in the 1930s. The nickname "Panther" was bestowed on him by college roommate Bruce Lietzke because of Rogers' nervous habits both on and off the course. At times, he seems almost to leap at an iron shot or a short putt.
And as Rogers' friend and manager, Hughes Norton, of the International Management Group, says, "When Bill has a flight to catch, he gets to the airport two hours ahead of time. I mean that's when he gets to the gate."
So it was that at dinner on the evening before the last round at Sandwich, Norton and two other good friends of Rogers', Ben Crenshaw and Lietzke, did everything they possibly could to avoid the subject of the British Open.
"It's sort of a gentleman's agreement on the tour," Rogers explained. "You don't talk about it the night before when a guy's supposed to go out and win the next day. I didn't want to talk about it anyhow, for another reason. Ben had been in it for two rounds, but he'd played bad, and I know how much the majors mean to him. But he's a great guy. He's a good mimic, you know. He can talk like Miller Barber and imitate everybody's swing. People know that. What they don't know is, Ben can write like everybody. He's a great forger. He can sign his name just like Arnold and Jack—all the great players. We laughed all through dinner with Ben showing us how to sign every golfer's name."
The next morning Crenshaw was asked about the strong points of Rogers' game. "He's got control." Crenshaw said. "With his grip and his swing, he can't hook the ball. He's got the whole left side of a golf course eliminated before he tees off."
Which brings up one of the greatest strengths of Rogers' game—his ability to avoid the disastrous hook.
By way of explanation for the' right-handed non-golfer, a hook is a shot that either soars or darts from right to left with overspin, which means the ball can bounce or run into deep trouble if it's hit off-line. There is an old golf saying, attributed to Jackie Burke Jr.. that goes: "Never hit a hook. You can't talk to a hook." In other words, a hook doesn't stay in sight long enough to hear anything you might yell at it.
Ben Hogan fought a tendency to hook throughout his early career, but finally conquered it and won all of his big stuff, including four U.S. Opens, with a fade, which is a shot that goes from left to right. Ben has been quoted as saying he'd rather have a coral snake crawling inside his shirt than hook one tee shot.
Now Rogers' golf swing is being compared to Hogan's by certain people who claim to be keen observers of golfing mechanics. As Rogers was winning those titles in Australia, Peter Thomson, the five-time British Open champion, said that Rogers' grip was the nearest thing he had ever seen to Hogan's. Left hand on top, right hand weak. And no glove, just like Hogan. Thomson even noted that there were worn grooves on Rogers' grips, as there were on Hogan's, because his left thumb slides on the takeaway and the follow-through. Hogan had a sliding left thumb, too, said Thomson.
"Can you believe that?" was Rogers' reaction.