Once a year the sport of golf sneaks away to some exotic place and attempts to prove that all of the ills on the globe could be cured if more people hung around country club grillrooms. This ritual is known as the World Cup.
There are those who balk at calling the Cup an actual tournament because it sometimes has a lot more Rumanians and Chileans and Nigerians in it than it has Jack Nicklauses and Johnny Millers. But last week on the Costa del Sol of Spain it had as much glamour as it could ever have wished for and, considering the really peachy condition of things everywhere on the planet, maybe it did some good at that. Nobody encircled anybody else's army or passed along a case of cholera over a missed putt.
Early in the week Fred Corcoran and the rest of the committee members sat around the luxurious resort in Marbella on the Mediterranean, chatting with the titled and lorded and rejoicing in the fact that, by golly, even with all of the world's problems, every two-man team from just about every country had showed up except the Czechoslovakians, who could not obtain visas. Well, somebody said, the crowds might drop off a little with Jiri Dvorak and Jaromir Fuchs missing, but perhaps Nicklaus and Miller could take up the slack. The World Cup deserved to congratulate itself, everyone agreed. Look at it this way. Egypt was at war, but Mohamed Said Moussa came anyway, and even though his partner Ayman el Faransawi was occupied somewhere in the Sinai, he had scared up another, Abeduwahab Mahmood, who could shoot an 82 with the best of them. And how about Chile? Between coups Chile had managed to send over Francisco Cerda, who shot a 68 one day, and Rafael Jerez. Hey, and what about Argentina? They've got a chick named Isabel Perón practically running things now, but old Roberto DeVicenzo and old Fidel DeLuca, a couple of fellows over 50, were proving that age makes no difference on the fairways. Cholera did not keep Italy's Roberto Bernardini and Alberto Croce away. The energy crisis did not keep Japan's Isao Aoki and Tohru Nakamura at home. Didn't Ireland pause between bombings and send over Eddie Polland from the north and Jimmy Kinsella from the south? Even though they knew they could not drive on Sunday through large chunks of Europe, Sweden's Jan Rosell and Bo Johansson came ahead. And, finally, it choked everyone up to think that Nicklaus and Miller lent their names to the event as independents, having, cynics joked, no government back home to represent.
So much for the worthwhileness of the World Cup. This is something one is always reminded of as the sponsors take it around annually to such venues as Rome, Paris, Buenos Aires, Singapore or wherever. As for the setting of Marbella and the club, Nueva Andalucia, it could not have been more dazzling, and the championship has rarely assumed so much instant class. There were all sorts of kings and future kings around, like Leopolds and Charleses, and there were itinerant princes with names like Alphonse and Ricky, but of course the Spanish were more interested in another type of royalty, like the American heavies, Miller and Nicklaus.
December 3, 1973
Gearing up for the two, the Spanish decided to run a tight ship, and they almost made it impossible for anyone to see the tournament. They came up with enormous plastic badges that people were obliged to drape around their necks, and the same enterprising officials insisted on fastening multicolored armbands on everyone in sight and tying ropes across every doorway. They then issued the following statement to the committee, helpers and media:
"Please be advised that the organization has decided to give to the collaborators through their respective distinctions free entrance to the course and various dependencies taking into account the proper limitations established in order not to disturb the tournament."
Naturally, confusion reigned. It did not help that the crowds, by World Cup standards, were fairly immense. At one point an outraged journalist went up to a Spanish official and said, "Do you know why El Greco painted an occasional landscape? Because he couldn't get indoors without an armband."
How a World Cup manages to run itself is often more fascinating than the golf. Typical was what happened before Sunday's final round began. When Corcoran, the tournament director, casually glanced at the 18th green he noticed that the pin was practically in the frog hair. A quick investigation uncovered the fact that Spanish television had moved the cup from where it belonged because a pesky tree stood between the flag and their camera. The pin was replaced, after some discussion.
When there are competitors in the field like Dumitru Munteanu of Rumania, who opened with a cool 103, and Henrik Lund of Denmark, who whipped it around in 90, and Mohamed Salah Ziaani of Libya, who fashioned a 92, a round can require up to 6½ hours. The Americans were ecstatic about that, as one might guess.
The result was that Nicklaus almost dictated his starting times. When Corcoran told him that he and Miller would be paired with the Spanish, last off, in the third round on Saturday Jack said, "Aw, that's too late." Whereupon Corcoran moved them up to the middle of the field, and did it again on Sunday even though the Americans were leading.
Nicklaus took sinister delight in this and other rules which were waived now and then for various conveniences. "What makes this tournament different," he laughed, "is that you keep your own score and then hand it to a pro who doesn't speak or read your language, and he's supposed to verify it."
One such individual added as much glamour to the field as even Jack Nicklaus. He was the Spanish hero, Valentin Barrios, a tall, strikingly handsome figure who looks something like a road company Fernando Lamas and hits the ball like a European Nicklaus. Golf in Spain is in a tremendous boom, with new courses springing up almost overnight, and Barrios is not slowing matters down. He became the European Order of Merit winner this season. He has won three tournaments and been second in four others. Adding to Barrios' image is his stylish dress. He will wear a suit, vest and tie in the evenings and he will leap up and do a flamenco at the drop of a flamingo. He once played a minor role in a feature film, which helps, and he has been seen jumping into a bull ring and performing a nifty pass with the cape, which helps more.
Barrios started off nicely in the World Cup and was hanging in there after two rounds with a chance to win the individual trophy, something, he said, that would mean more to Spain than if he were to win the Masters.
"The Spanish understand something called the World. The Masters they don't know about. I know about the Masters, and I would swim there to play just once, but when you call something the World the Spanish people think it's more important," he said.
Alas, Barrios took himself out of contention on Saturday when his team was paired with the Americans. He was so nervous in the company of Nicklaus that for the first few holes he could not drive within 50 yards of the superstars. He eventually loosened up and played well again, hitting some of his rockets, but his moment had come and gone. He finished with a 75-73 in a tie for eighth, which was not so bad considering the quality of the field at the top.
"He's a fine player," said Nicklaus. "Give him about a year on our tour, and he'd be something special."
Barrios was asked what he made outside of prize money in Europe, such as clothing contracts and representing the Real Club Puerta de Hierro in Madrid, his home.
"Does one get money for such things?" he smiled. He represents the club for nothing because he grew up there caddying, and he would expect money only for competing or teaching.
Maybe he could get rich in America, he was told.
Refreshingly, Barrios said, "Ah, but I would not be in Spain, would I?"
While it was the chance to see Nicklaus lead the Americans to their 12th victory in the World Cup that attracted the large crowds to Nueva Andalucia, most of the good golf they saw played was by Miller. He explained that he was "really up" for the tournament because he did not want to go home and hear that the good old U.S.A. would have won if Nicklaus had not been teamed with "that dog, Miller." On Friday he threw a course record 65 into things and then had a 67 on Sunday. This, largely, was all that was required for the U.S. to beat out South Africa for the Cup by six strokes. Miller was low individual at 277, three strokes ahead of Gary Player. Lu Liang-Huan, the 1972 winner from Taiwan, was tied for third with Nicklaus at 281. Taiwan finished third in the team competition, with Argentina and Spain tied for fourth and Japan sixth.
The greens at Nueva Andalucia were soft and covered with cleat marks. Miller was able to resolve this by hitting most of his shots so close to the cup that he could not miss every putt. He wound up sort of "carrying" Nicklaus, who confessed that he played a somewhat lousy tournament.
"Having Jack for a partner is a heck of an edge," Miller said. "I was playing to impress my captain. Jack was there to handle it if we needed anything."
Barrios said it better than most about the Americans. "They give everybody much nerves."