Timing is everything with a golfer like Raymond Floyd. He takes the club back with something of a subtle jerk, takes it back rather flat, then he lays it off a little at the top and pushes it down through the ball, his hips and legs doing odd things. It isn't a circus swing, and it may not look all that funny to the non-golfer, but the irregularities in it mean that Floyd's game doesn't travel all that well week to week. When he's on, however, there are few players more skilled all through the bag, and not many pros compete more tenaciously. Last week near Columbus, Ohio, in Jack Nicklaus-land, old Tempo Raymondo, as he's known in the locker room, was definitely on, and he sneaked up on the Memorial Tournament field and did the thing he does about once a year. He won.
Floyd, who is 39, has been winning regularly on the PGA Tour for 20 years—or for nearly as long as Nicklaus has been out there. The Memorial was his 16th victory on the American tour, and the $63,000 first-place check he received put him near the $2 million mark for his career. He's sixth on the alltime money list. Now and then he wins a major, like the 1969 PGA or the 1976 Masters, or a semi-major, such as the 1981 TPC. There are other occasions when you don't even know Floyd is in the field, probably because his timing is off.
For a couple of days last week Floyd wasn't noticed around Nicklaus' Muirfield Village premises, what with most minds being on the weather or Roger Maltbie. But Floyd was hanging around back there in the field as the skies kept darkening and the first three rounds, repeatedly interrupted by rain and forebodings of worse weather, took an eternity to complete.
Floyd was very prominent on Sunday, though. He went out in the last threesome with the co-leaders, Maltbie and Gil Morgan, and, after birdieing the first hole, was tied with them. The three-way struggle continued for the next nine holes, with first one and then another scratching out a short-lived advantage. Then came the pivotal 11th, a meandering par-5 where Floyd saved the tournament he was going to win.
Floyd drove into a bunker and practically topped a three-iron second shot, barely getting it out of the sand. He was still 220 yards from the green and hitting into the wind. "I thought about laying up," he said later, "but then I thought, hell, this is Sunday."
He timed his three-wood lunge perfectly and put his third shot on the green, which allowed him to save par and remain within a shot of the lead. A few minutes there after Floyd birdied the par-4 13th to seize an advantage he would never lose.
At the uphill, upwind par-5 15th he leaned on his three-wood again and reached the greenside bunker in two. A flip out of the sand left him a gimmie birdie that put him at seven under for the tournament; it turned out that seven under—281—would be where he'd finish after rounds of 74, 69, 67 and 71.
There was only one more sticky situation for Floyd. At the par-3 16th, he put his five-iron in the deep fringe behind a bunker, which lay between him and the pin. He had to get up and down to save par. He opened up a sand wedge and hit one of those lob shots that only a veteran knows about. It was a beauty, four feet from the pin. In went the putt. His last two pars were routine. Steady tee shots and irons into the fat part of the greens. Morgan, Maltbie, Wayne Levi and Peter Jacobsen finished tied for second, two shots back.
"I never thought about winning or losing or what number it would take," Tempo Raymondo said afterward. "I was concentrating on each hole, worrying about offense and defense. That's what you have to do at Muirfield. It's the toughest and best-conditioned course we play. If you start thinking about a playoff, you won't be in it. I didn't think about winning until I had a two-shot lead with two holes to play. That's when you ought to be able to handle it."
In Columbus they support the Memorial as if Ohio State were playing football on the velvet valleys of Nicklaus' course. No fewer than 2,400 volunteers were out there seeing that everything ran as perfectly as possible for both the contestants and the fans. The opinion on the PGA Tour is that, overall, this is the best-run tournament on the circuit, and like the Colonial, the tournament Nicklaus won two weeks ago in Fort Worth to break his 21-month dry spell, the Memorial has become a social event as well as a sporting spectacle.