As far as golf went, there was only one way to play it for Jones: according to the rules and the spirit of the game. Observing this simple code, he proceeded to set (unintentionally) the highest standard of bona fide sportsmanship of all the great champions of the Golden Age. In the first round of the 1925 Open, he called a penalty stroke on himself, when his ball moved a fraction of an inch in the rough as he was preparing to play an approach. Bobby ultimately finished in a tie for first with Willie Macfarlane, who subsequently beat him in the play-off. The full import of the penalty stroke was then obvious: it had proved to be the difference mathematically between winning the championship outright or not winning it. At the same time, to emphasize the cost of that action is to miss its true meaning. If your ball moves in the rough while you are addressing it, of course you call a penalty stroke. It is simply a part of golf, just like holing a long putt is. If this happens at a critical stretch in the National Open, you cannot rightfully claim that this unfortunate incident deprived you of winning the championship. You had plenty of other holes, 71 of them, in which to build to a winning total. Incurring that penalty was damn tough luck, and that was all you could say about it. Other times—and you knew it—the breaks went for you, and in the long run they evened up.
In victory, Jones never forgot the men who had come close but hadn't won. In his acceptance speeches—and they set the pattern which continues today in American sports—he always spoke of "we," including the other finalist, if it were a match-play event, or the leading contenders, if it were a strokes-play event. Innate good manners prompted this, partially, but it went deeper than that. He meant it. Jones was very clear about his own feelings on just about every occasion. He knew from his own experience how painful it was to come close and finally lose. The least he could do was to let the other fellow share his triumph, not through chivalry, but because that is how you do things.
There was no humbug in Jones. Many years after his retirement, a friend happened to ask him if there had been any spot in his career when he had been annoyed by an action or an attitude on the part of an opponent. "Yes, I remember one time distinctly," Bob said, cocking his head and "looking" a long way back. "In one championship final, my opponent and I were chatting, like you always do, just before we teed off in our match. 'Let's just have a nice friendly game,' he said to me. 'I really don't care who wins. Let's just enjoy ourselves.' Well, that sort of got under my skin because I knew he wanted to win that championship just as much as I did."
Make no mistake about it, you can be both sportsman and competitor, hand in glove. No one wanted to win harder than Bobby Jones did, or drove himself toward his goal with more determination. Without that fire he could never have accomplished the wonders he did. Superior talent takes you only so far in golf, or in any other sport; and the rest you do, or don't do, yourself.
Jones, the model American athlete, makes it difficult for anyone who writes about him because he is the wonderful guy his admirers have claimed him to be in lavish prose and lengthy orations. (That most hardheaded of sportswriters, Paul Gallico, said of Jones: "I have found only one [sports figure] who could stand up in every way as a gentleman as well as a celebrity, a fine, decent human being as well as a newsprint personage, and one who never once since I have known him has let me down in my estimate of him.") By nature he was the least histrionic of persons, but, as occasionally happens, the substance of the man came across unmistakably to the thousands who watched him or merely read about him. As a result, he enjoyed a popularity that was almost Churchillian. Moreover, like very few athletic heroes, he somehow had the native grace to stand up beneath the colossal burden of his fame and to remain himself—an achievement indeed. He happened to come along at the time when sports were beginning to become the big thing that they now are in the lives of so many Americans. It was a fortunate thing he did, for of all our athletic heroes he has probably exerted the most marked and lasting influence on American sports. Of course, he was more than just a golfer—one of those uncommon persons of whom it can truly be said that he would have been first-rate at whatever he attempted. It was golf's luck that he was a golfer.
...And so, if in late September, 1930, when Bobby Jones came to Merion with the Grand Slam in sight, was it any wonder that a whole nation was pulling so hard for him and felt so personally implicated in his welfare? It had been a long, strange season for Jones—1930. In early spring he had broken from his usual practice of bypassing all the tournaments on the professionals' winter circuit; he had entered the Savannah Open (in which he finished second to the up-and-coming Horton Smith) and the Southeastern Open in Augusta (in which he left the field a full 13 strokes in his dust). Bob seemed to be hitting his shots a shade more confidently than ever before, and remarking this, Grantland Rice made the indecently accurate prophecy that Bob might very possibly win two, three, or maybe all four of the major championships that year. Bobby Cruickshank flatly predicted he would sweep them all.
Although he felt deep down inside that this was a possibility if he could be so lucky as to produce his best golf at the right times, Jones himself harbored no such grand ambitions. This was a year when the Walker Cup matches were scheduled for Sandwich, and Bob had his sights set primarily on that competition and the chance it would give him, since it would be carrying him to England, to have another crack at the British Amateur championship, the one major title that had eluded him.
Over to Britain, then. In May, in the Walker Cup match, Bobby won his singles 9 and 8 from Roger Wethered, and he and Doc Willing took their foursome 8 and 7. Bob was captain of the American side and, as such, in charge of determining the lineup. As the U.S. Open champion, he could have justifiably selected himself for the No. 1 slot. In a typical gesture, he placed Jones at No. 2 and accorded the honor of being top man to Harrison "Jimmy" Johnston, our Amateur champion.
On to St. Andrews and the British Amateur, Jones's nemesis tournament. In his two previous attempts in this championship, the grind of grinds in which a golfer must wade through seven rounds of 18-hole matches before reaching the 36-hole final, Bobby had never got close to the luxury of the long route. In 1921, an old codger by the name of Allan Graham had putted him dizzy, 6 and 5. In 1926, he had reached the fifth round and there succumbed 4 and 3 to the two-under-par golf of a Scot named Andrew Jamieson. On his third try, in 1930, to make a long tournament short, Bob finally made it—winning his first match 3 and 2 from a miner from Nottingham named Syd Roper (but only by starting four under par for the first four holes); his second match easily 5 and 3 from Cowan Shankland; his third from Cyril Tolley 1 up on the 19th hole; his fourth from G. O. Watt, 7 and 6; his fifth 1 up over Jimmy Johnston; his sixth 4 and 3 over Eric Fiddian; his semi-final match 1 up over George Voigt; and the final 7 and 6 over Roger Wethered. The scores of these matches are noted because the whole edifice of the Grand Slam depended naturally on Bob's taking the British Amateur, and how awfully close on more than one occasion he had come to not doing it!
Fortunately for lovers of golf, Bob was accompanied to the major tournaments from the beginning to the end of his career by 0. B. Keeler of the Atlanta Journal. O.B.'s assignment was to tell the folks back home how their boy was doing. He ended by telling the world. This is O.B.'s summary of what happened at St. Andrews: