There was a time when the Indonesians used to show up without golf clubs or shoes, when a Rumanian arrived two days too late and played nine holes just to prove there was golf behind the Iron Curtain, when Gary Player competed as a teen-ager and spent most of the week in the gallery watching Ben Hogan, when a host nation wanted to supply the field with pull carts instead of caddies; and there was, of course, a time when Americans used to joke that the World Cup was the only tournament in which a guy felt he should tip half the entries.
All of this is well in the past, and the World Cup championship that Jack Nicklaus dominated last week on a course located only a drive and a long iron from his home in Lost Tree Village, Fla. has matured into one of the most fascinating, if not one of the most necessary, tournaments in professional golf. In a sport and world where money—big gobs of it—has come to mean so much, it seems sort of nice to have this one week out of the year when Nicklaus can pound out a nine-under-par 63 for the sheer pleasure of it, and when Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, our two best players of the hour, can go out and try to defend the honor of the flag against 45 other countries with little other reward than the simple satisfaction of proving they really are the best. Nicklaus, in fact, had never played hotter golf in his life over a three-week stretch—or won less money for his efforts. He was 19 under par in winning the Australian Open and 14 under par in winning the Dunlop Masters, also in Australia a week later. Then he came home to Palm Beach and was 17 under while capturing the International Trophy, the individual part of the World Cup proceedings. And for all of this, for an appalling 50 under par in 12 straight competitive rounds, Jack made but $9,512.
During the streak, he fashioned two of his lowest rounds ever. There was the 62 he shot in Australia at the Dunlop despite bogeys on the last two holes. "That's probably the closest I'll ever come to breaking 60," he said. "I should have birdied both holes, and I bogeyed them." And then there was that 63 on Saturday, which practically ended the World Cup, a round that featured not only a bogey but a penalty stroke on another hole when he hit into the water.
"All that good golf for no money must prove you're still an amateur at heart," somebody told Nicklaus.
"Yeah," he said. "Either that or I'm pretty dumb with my timing."
Since big business in America does not get a very good press these days, it probably will not hurt to lay a little credit on the six major corporations that keep believing in friendship through golf and continue to sustain the World Cup, an annual event for which all nations are invited to send two pros to some exotic land for good, clean, unmercenary competition, an event where some nations even manage to send golfers.
Whether such stalwart believers in international goodwill through golf as American Express, Pan-Am, NCR, ITT, General Foods and Time Inc. get their money's worth by providing an opportunity for a guy from Singapore to make an 18 on a single hole is another question. The point, probably, is that for a few days a golfer named Alvin Liau of Singapore, despite his 18 and subsequent 98, gets to post his score on the same board with a Jack Nicklaus.
Some of the golf, naturally, is awfully funny. The bulk of the field could not take its best ball and beat Nicklaus or Trevino, but most of the golfers seem to regard the tournament more seriously each year, and as Director Fred Corcoran says, "It's the only event I know of where guys shake hands on the 1st tee and wish each other luck instead of asking what number ball they're playing."
Corcoran, ageless and one of the best promoters in golf, has been nurturing the event for nearly all of its years. The World Cup used to be known as the Canada Cup, and it was originated by the late John Jay Hopkins of General Dynamics in 1953. One day in 1954 at Baltusrol, Hopkins asked Corcoran, "What's wrong with my tournament? We only had seven countries there."
Corcoran said, "You played it in Canada where all they know is hockey scores. Take it all over the world."
Hopkins told Corcoran to take it, and Corcoran has. At first nobody wanted it except the major corporations that came in as sponsors, but now at least 15 countries a year beg to be the host. It is possible for the World Cup to go just about anywhere and have as smoothly run a tournament as the PGA National Golf Club staged last week, with flags flying and dozens of members out helping the Libyans find their shots in the deep rough.
A little over a decade ago the Melbourne sponsors thought they could stage the event without caddies, suggesting that everybody in the field use a pull cart. The problem was solved when Corcoran produced 100 handbooks explaining the art of caddying. The Royal Melbourne club distributed them to the university from which the caddies would be hired. "They called the pros mister, which was a first," said Corcoran, and they turned out to be excellent, on a par, for instance, with Nicklaus' caddie last week, an unemployed Ph.D. from Argentina.
It was three years ago in Rome when a little golfer named Paul Tomita showed up from Rumania. It was his first time out of the country in 31 years. He played nine holes on the third day and stood proudly while the Rumanian flag was raised with those of the other nations. Last week he was in Palm Beach, announcing he would start the tournament with a golf ball President Nixon had given him. Everybody was touched, but a few wondered why Tomita would want to put a cut in something so treasured, because he was going to shoot a 90.
One day during the tournament Corcoran stood gazing at the scoreboard where an assortment of 90s and 80s were being posted by all kinds of golfers of varying sizes, and he remembered what one of the Indonesians had said to him in Australia after the two-man team had borrowed clubs and shoes and then hung up a pair of 99s.
"He said he wasn't too disappointed in his round because he spent most of his time teaching golf instead of playing," said Corcoran.
For all of this, the World Cup always manages to produce some startlingly good golf among the 20 to 30 excellent players who are present. As it happens, the Americans have far from dominated the play over the years. A lot of different countries have won it, and only Nicklaus' blazing performance last week kept his house guest, Player, along with Player's partner, Harold Henning, from winning the championship for South Africa.
Jack shot rounds of 68, 69, 63 and 71, and he and Trevino won by 12 strokes. Nicklaus took the individual title by seven strokes. Lee, ever gracious, finished with a 69 and said, "I got off Jack's back and played a little golf myself for a change. He's carried me for three days."
If you want to count trophies for the year, Nicklaus' individual and the team title he shared with Trevino moved him one up on Trevino for titles won in 1971. Let's count. The team victory gives Trevino seven when added to those for the U.S. Open, British Open, Canadian Open, Memphis, Tallahassee and Sahara. Nicklaus has eight, including the PGA, Byron Nelson Classic, Tournament of Champions, National Team Championship with Arnold Palmer and the two in Australia.
Nicklaus played so superbly that Trevino tried only to stay out of his way. When Jack shot the record 63—with the small ball, but who cares?—on Saturday, he would rap a putt and say to Lee, "Go get it," when the ball was only halfway to the cup, and Trevino would almost beat the ball to the hole.
For those who might be amazed at how Nicklaus could get fired up over winning a tournament that would only pay him $1,000, Jack had the answer. "I bought $700 worth of tickets and a $300 sponsorship, so I had to win it to break even." He smiled.
JACK AND LEE, THE WORLD'S BEST GOLF ACT, PROVED TO BE A TOUGH ONE TO FOLLOW