All week long the one-liners dropped like bogeys out there in the Minnesota farm country, so it was welcome to the Henny Youngman Open, folks. Let's rent an electric reaper and play a fast 18. Stuff like that. Are the greens mowed and is the automatic milking machine working? Even the locker room has a dogleg. I'd withdraw but I don't know how to get back to town. And a lot of talk about cows and corn. This was going on at the Hazeltine National Golf Club because the pros had staggered onto a layout that made them look like they should be taking lessons from their assistants back home. All except one, of course, the Englishman who whipped it into the shape of a mealy pudding. Even with the mad dog chasing him, Tony Jacklin won it so easily it seemed as if he alone were playing in the U.S. Open while Dave Hill and everybody else was putting up jams and jellies on Route 101 near Shakopee.
There is a theory that you have to like a golf course, just a little bit, in order to play it decently. If that was so about Hazeltine, then there could be no surprise in Jacklin's shocking seven-stroke victory. The way the course tossed and turned on slightly hilly terrain while displaying some enormous bald spots, and the way the wind lashed at it and the skies chilled it a couple of times, Jacklin had a reason to feel perfectly at home, somewhere back in Britain or Scotland. He said he felt at home, and he certainly played as if he were—at home, all by himself.
Among the rewarding things about Jacklin winning is that he now has achieved, at the tender age of 25, the status of a true star in the game. He has added the U.S. Open title to the British Open he won last summer. That means he has two major championships to his credit, and there aren't many active players on the tour who have accomplished as much. Only Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Billy Casper and Julius Boros, as a matter of fact. The rest are Al Geiberger or somebody, or they have been laid to rest in the record books.
Everybody was laid to rest at Hazeltine by Jacklin, who shot four consecutive sub-par rounds on a course the American pros said was unplayable, unprintable and would better serve mankind as the site of a Marlboro commercial. What Tony shot was 71 on a day when the wind blew 40 mph, 70 on a beautifully calm day, 70 on a day of gloom and chill and then a final 70 on a gloriously pleasant Sunday. That added up to 281, seven under par—and seven shots ahead of the mad dog, Dave Hill, who was more vocal than anyone about Hazeltine and drew an absurd fine of $150 for some of his public comments.
Just what was all the yelling about? Well, the design of the Hazeltine course was not to the liking of any American pro, but no course is these days that bears a trace of the unusual or the difficult. The touring pros have been making it increasingly plain in recent years that they object to any track with a tree, a pond or a par-5 that can't be reached with a drive and a swizzle stick.
One of the holes that made everybody the maddest at Hazeltine was the 1st, a long par-4 that bent around a bunker. The landing area for the tee shot disappeared gently from view below a portrait of a weathered barn perched atop a cornfield. Very funny, the pros said. It's like teeing up and hitting at International Falls. But, considering the locale of the tournament, what better opening vista than a cornfield and a barn? A course should reflect its surroundings. The Open had come to the Midwest, right? Well, here was a golf hole that said welcome to the Midwest. All golf courses don't look like Augusta National, and they shouldn't.
The more naive players in the field, people like the two young Texas amateurs, Ben Crenshaw and John Mahaffey, were bewildered by all of the fussing. Mahaffey said yes, there were blind shots and hidden fairways, but didn't one tend to discover where they were after a practice round or so? "They say the greens don't hold iron shots," said the 18-year-old Crenshaw, "but they hold mine. Maybe I don't hit them right." So much for the irreverence of youth.
One thing this most controversial of Open courses in years did do was take away the edge of the big hitters. There were four par-5s, but each was as reachable in two as downtown Minneapolis, 25 miles away. So those automatic birdies that the slugger is so accustomed to were not to be had unless the big man could also feather, float, finesse, clip, punch or pray a little iron close to the hole. This vanishing talent was in short supply at Hazeltine. Bob Lunn was the only long hitter among the leaders. The low rounds of the tournament, 67s, were shot by a couple of lightweights who might have been blown away by the wind, Bob Charles and Randy Wolff.
If famed—and now blistering around the ears—golf Architect Robert Trent Jones had designed such an unfair course, how come there were 38 sub-par rounds in this Open? Venerable golf followers wondered what might have happened if the protesters had ever seen Oakland Hills back in 1951. Jones and the USGA combined for a memorable job on that one—the number of rounds below par was exactly two.
None of which is to argue that Hazeltine ranks among America's premier courses. It will never be in the category of Merion, next year's Open site, or Pebble Beach, which has the Open in '72. It is no Pine Valley or Seminole or lots of those places that make splendid calendar pictures in the offices of insurance executives. But it is better than two courses the Open has been played on in the past seven years—Bellerive and Congressional—and it has its memorable holes, especially those with water. The 10th was fashioned after 11 at Augusta, the 7th after the 16th at Firestone and the 6th after the 14th at Champions, all famous holes. And then there is the 17th which is, well, the 17th at Hazeltine.
Finally, it was suggested by cynics at Hazeltine last week that with something as important as the U.S. Open Championship at stake, along with $200,000 in pin money, it shouldn't make any difference if the pros are asked to play through a motel hallway full of vending machines. It ought to be their pleasure.
Hazeltine was certainly Jacklin's pleasure. What a nice steady show, that 71-70-70-70—281. Two eight one, huh? Before the tournament began Lee Trevino predicted, "If anybody shoots 281 on this course, the Pope is a possum." Well, when Jacklin's 25-foot birdie on the 72nd green leaped into the cup for 281, maybe something curious happened at the Vatican.
What happened at Hazeltine, among other things, was a full-out race to the record books to see when anybody last won the U.S. Open by so many shots. It turned out to be the biggest winning margin since Jim Barnes captured the event by nine back in 1921. There had been a Ralph Guldahl win by six strokes at Cherry Hills in 1938 and a Ben Hogan victory by six in 1953 at Oakmont, but nothing else close.
The only explanation for the brutal beating that Jacklin gave both the field and the course was that he was, as competitors sometimes are, charmed—charmed all week. He played well, granted. But so did Hill and a handful of others. What Jacklin did that the others did not do was refuse to be intimidated by the course. And when he invented the shots he needed for Hazeltine, they came off, because he expected them to, on the one hand, and because it was Tony Jacklin's time, on the other.
For example, on the day of the high, swirling wind, with almost half of the field going for 80 and above—a day which found Palmer, Player and Nicklaus shooting 79, 80 and 81, respectively—Jacklin rapped home a couple of 40-foot putts and holed a bunker shot. He was the only player to equal or better par that day as the Americans went around cursing Robert Trent Jones as if he had also designed the wind.
"Three hundred will win here," said Larry Ziegler, "and it'll bring Sam Parks back out."
But Jacklin had a slightly different view. "Most Americans don't know how to play well in the wind," he said much later. "They are not conditioned to it. I might hit any club at all from 160 yards on in—even a two-iron. I practice that sort of thing all the time." What the American tends to do is look at his yardage card, see 160, hit his usual soaring six-iron and then wonder why his ball got blown across 40 acres of feed grain.
There was little for the Americans to do but laugh about their black Thursday at the Open. At one point Jacklin was four under par on the leader boards while everyone else was trying to stand up in the gale. He closed that day with a bogey and double bogey on the 16th and 17th or he probably would have won by a lot more. At that, he held a two-stroke lead.
The real proof that he was charmed, however, came on Friday. When he reached the 17th hole, where he had taken the double bogey the day before, he found himself deep in the trees—in serious trouble. The 17th was a hostile little hole, a crooked par-4 that called for a tee shot with an iron, or anything you could hit straight to slide the ball between the trees and leave yourself a clear short-iron approach to a green bordered by ponds on both sides. A couple of the pros called the hole Farmer Jones' practical joke, and everyone agreed that you could take anything from birdie to double bogey on it. Well, Tony had the double bogey out of the way, so now it was time for something else.
Deep in those trees, smart money would have chipped out safely and played for a sure bogey and a possible par. It seemed an especially wise thing for an Open leader to do. But Jacklin took out a five-iron, closed the face to keep the shot under the tree limbs and gave a little spank while the crowd wondered if the Englishman had gone mad (see cover). The ball hopped and skipped and went along, rolling up perfectly into the alley between the ponds, and then onto the green and finally seven feet from the cup. And Tony made the putt. Thus, at the end of 36 holes, Jacklin led by three.
"You have to take some chances out there," he explained. "I felt I had a good chance to get the ball out, so I went for it. It was one of those shots you need to invent from time to time."
It was also on Friday that Dave Hill moved into second with a 69 and then sat down and told the world how it was at Hazeltine. Hill is a much better golfer than comedian, but the press ate up his words because Dave is definitely not from the yep-nope school of golf pros. He does talk, and whether one agrees with him or not, he is fun to have in town. Hazeltine, he said, ought to be plowed up so somebody could build a golf course on it. And he went on about cows and cornfields and such—a stand-up comic routine—except the cover charge was $150.
When the PGA fined him for "conduct unbecoming," or whatever it was, Hill only shrugged and said, "With the fines I've paid I could put my kids through college." One or two pros giggled that Dave should write out the check for $300 because he'd say the same thing the next day.
Invigorating as it was to have Hill peering through his granny glasses at questioners and handling the role of American Golf Dissent 1970, it was also true that his ire reached the point of churlishness, almost as if he had found bomb-throwing was fun. The result was locker-room disorder the likes of which this grand old gentlemen's sport hasn't seen in decades. The never-say-a-naughty-word types lined up privately and strongly against Hill, while maintaining their usual—and thoroughly dreary—no-comment posture, but the more outspoken Gary Player simply blasted Hill openly for very bad manners.
Hill then gave Player's position some strength—and did golf no good at all—by not only sticking with his views on Hazeltine, which he was certainly entitled to do, but backhanding all of Great Britain for the pure hell of it. Asked if he was going to play in the British Open, he alluded to trouble he had had over a ruling at the Ryder Cup matches there last year and said, "If they ever found me over there again they'd know I died and somebody shipped my body to the wrong place."
"We will be relieved to know that we will not be pestered by his ill manners again," answered British Journalist Leonard Crawley. "He left a solid bad smell." And Britain's Henry Longhurst summed up Hill's Hazeltine comments briskly. "Monstrous impudence."
Yet Dave never let up. On Sunday, after he had finished second, he refused to go out for the award presentation because the crowd had heckled him with barnyard noises.
"What has the USGA ever done against you?" asked harassed P. J. Boatwright, USGA executive director and the man in charge of the Open. "They put the tournament on this course," answered Hill. Eventually Hill agreed to go out, and then told the crowd, which greeted him with scattered moos or boos, "If I couldn't moo like a cow better than you people, I would send [myself] to the slaughterhouse."
All very ancient and honourable.
For the spectators, Hill at least gave the tournament a villain, and they poured onto Hazeltine for Saturday's third round to find their mad dog and Englishman paired together. This offered the throngs a chance to become comedians themselves, and Hill first heard the whoops and calls in the gallery that sounded very much to him like mooing.
When he would hit a shot off-line, he would hear something like, "How far is it from the corn, Davey?" Hill could only smile, chain smoke and try to catch Jacklin, which was getting increasingly difficult because the Englishman slowly stretched his lead to four strokes at the end of 54 holes. Jacklin's 70 on Saturday, in fact, was as low as anyone shot that day—and once again it featured a charmed shot at the 17th.
For the second time Jacklin drove wildly into the left rough off the 17th tee and found himself confronted with the same old decision. Should he try to dig it out of the weeds and get it up and over the trees and onto the green, or should he chip out safely? Hill was in position for a good birdie try, and there could be a two-or three-shot swing if a gamble did not pay off.
To the surprise of all, Jacklin went for the green again. This time he slashed a perfect eight-iron high over the forest and down onto the putting surface, and he got his par 4. With two chances on 17 to lose the Open, he had only moved closer to winning it.
The last chance Jacklin had to put himself in any sort of terrible trouble was at the 9th hole on Sunday. There really weren't too many players within shouting distance of him when the day started, so it was pretty much a case of whether Tony could fend off any kind of charge at him that might be made by Hill or possibly Gay Brewer, who was six strokes back. It was only a day in the sun for everybody else, especially the big three. Palmer and Nicklaus were paired together early, and they cooled it around in 77 and 76 and tied old Tom Morris and Laurie Auchterlonie at 305 and 304. Player did a little better, a 74, and he tied somebody using the gutta-percha ball at 302.
All three of the superstars, as it turned out, were beaten by Ben Crenshaw, who gave the tournament a little extra fun by wandering about in a quietly mod haircut, flairs, a sheepishly polite grin and a big solid golf swing. Crenshaw had shot a 75 on the day of the wind and followed it up with a 73 to hold the early halfway lead on Friday. He looked so good hitting the ball that all sorts of critics, including Byron Nelson and Trevino, said he had the best grip, the best setup and the best swing they had ever seen on a youngster. He closed out his Open with 77-76 on Saturday and Sunday, hardly as dazzling as some of the 61s and 62s he's been known to shoot around Austin, but good enough to tie for low amateur with Mahaffey. This marked the first time anyone so young had done so well since Bobby Jones had been low amateur in 1920.
But if Palmer, et al., were threats 10 years ago—and Crenshaw a threat 10 years hence—there was not a cloud on Jacklin's horizon Sunday except for that one fleeting moment at the 9th hole, when the tournament had a chance to tighten up. Hill, playing just ahead of Jacklin, had turned in even-par 36, and Tony had suffered two straight bogeys at the 7th and 8th holes. He was one over par for the day, and Hill, having gained a stroke, was only three behind. Jacklin had driven into the rough at the 9th. Another bogey here and they would go down the valley into the back nine separated by only two strokes. Also, there would be a tournament to watch.
None of this was about to happen. Jacklin reached the green with his second shot, and even though he gave his 30-foot birdie putt a rather harsh rap—one that for an instant suggested a three-putt possibility—it was headed straight for the cup, which it struck. The ball hopped about a foot in the air and came right back down to rattle around like all good birdie putts should.
And that was the last moment of any kind of drama.
"I knew then," Tony said, "that it was mine if I just took it easy. I actually enjoyed playing the back nine. I thought momentarily about Palmer losing his seven-stroke lead to Casper at Olympic and that such a thing could happen to me, but I put that out of my mind. I tried not to think that I was winning the Open or imagine myself at the presentation ceremonies."
Jacklin said he had been with Bert Yancey on Saturday night, and Yancey, who knew what it was like to lead the Open and then lose it—he had done so at Oak Hill in 1968—had told him to just swing easy, swing slow and play the course. And another of his good American pals, Tom Weiskopf, gave him the same thought a bit more symbolically. Tom put a one-word sign in Tony's locker. "Tempo," it said.
But the final word on anything that happened at Hazeltine last week came from Leonard Crawley. Because of a newspaper strike that was settled too late, only Crawley among the daily British golf writers had crossed the Atlantic to see Jacklin become the first Englishman since Harry Vardon to win our Open.
Crawley tweeked his heavy mustache late Sunday evening, lifted his quill, smiled and said, "I have, you know, the whole of England at my feet."
So does Tony Jacklin.