Whereupon his grips were examined and there were indeed places worn in them from his sliding left thumb.
"O.K.," said Rogers, "but I sure don't know where Hogan's were."
Rogers' swing, which features a late release and looks at times as if it is more hands than anything else, came to him naturally, but he gives all the credit to Robison for refining it. When things don't feel right to him, he always goes back to the man he still addresses as "Mr. Robison."
"Aw, I haven't done much for him," Robison will tell you. "He was always gonna be special. I did put his left hand on there when he was a kid and told him not to move it."
The fact is, Robison had a good bit to do with getting Rogers' swing back to where it belonged last spring. Rogers started off the season as if he might have to look for a new profession. He performed decently enough in Tucson and Palm Springs, but then, in succession, he missed the cut in Phoenix, tied for 47th in the Crosby, missed the cut in San Diego, missed the cut in Hawaii, missed the cut at Bay Hill and missed the cut at Inverrary. And this happened at a time when Rogers hadn't won a tournament in the U.S. in three years. He went home to Texarkana to see if some crayfish would help, or biscuits and gravy, or discussing ducks and birds and other worldly matters with another friend, Bruce Barton, at the Barton Motor Co., a used-car lot near downtown. Or maybe even playing a little friendly gin in the grill room at the club after going over his game with Robison.
Rogers began swinging like himself again, buoyed his confidence by going off to the Pacific and beating Isao Aoki in a couple of exhibitions in Tokyo and Manila. He came home and two weeks later won the Heritage.
He continued to feel good hitting the ball for the next three months, although he didn't win. "You know it when you're just gettin' by out there," he says, "and you know it when you're hitting it on the club face. I was keeping it on the club face."
At the U.S. Open at Merion he played elegantly all the way and finished tied for second behind David Graham. It was the best he had ever done in a major. He was overjoyed with his performance, as happy as he had been on another occasion of major importance in his life, which was when he made it through the tour's qualifying school in 1974.
"The qualifying school was torture," Rogers says. "I didn't sleep the two whole weeks we played. I mean, if I don't make the school, my life is over. All I know how to do is play golf. Tell you what. I can't honestly look back and say that winning a tournament—even the British Open—made me any happier than getting through the school. That's pressure, son. If you don't make the school, you're talkin' about a grocery clerk."
After the U.S. Open, Rogers took his silver runner-up medal back to the motel that night and looked at himself in the mirror and said, "You know what, son? You can play golf."