The grand image of the Masters, as most everybody knows, is that of a lot of genteel folk shuffling about all week being concerned about the bloom of the dogwood until late Sunday afternoon when Jack Nicklaus wins again. Nicklaus either wins or he almost wins or he would have won if something rococo had not happened—like Jack's four-iron turning into a kitchen mop or like, say, Charles Coody. But Nicklaus wins anyhow, even when he does not get the green coat, because he owns the people now and the tournament in the same way that Arnold Palmer used to. So that's it for the 1973 Masters. End of story.
Well, maybe not. Here's a fantasy. It is the final Sunday again and the dogwood is doing fine, along with the wisteria and the azaleas. So is Nicklaus. He has lapped most of the field. His hair is golden and fluffy and he is smiling because people are falling off the leader boards like Shriners off a hotel mezzanine. Palmer's jet has already flown over, heading back to Latrobe. Bert Yancey is shooting 61, but he started too far back. It looks as if the amateur Ben Crenshaw, who is only 12 years old, will finish second. Bruce Crampton has been disqualified for sawing the legs off a television tower. Johnny Miller has withdrawn to pose for some ads and take a screen test. Gay Brewer has been called in by the FBI to have his graphite shafts examined. It is all over. All Nicklaus has to do is play even bogey from the 15th in, and—wait a second. What's this? Why are they putting Tom Weiskopf's name up on the boards? Didn't Weiskopf get thrown out of the tournament on Friday for saying "Jesus Christ Superstar" in front of Joe Dey?
But they are putting Weiskopf's name up, just the same. He did what? Is that confirmed? Fantastic. Tom Weiskopf, despite a penalty for filling Bob Goal-by's golf bag with bunker sand and another for intentionally trampling a bed of yellow jasmine, has snatched the lead from Nicklaus. He has just played Amen Corner in 2-2-1-3: eagle, eagle, ace, eagle. Tom drove the 470-yard 10th and one-putted, drove the 445-yard 11th and one-putted, holed out a sand wedge at the 155-yard 12th and hit a driver, a nine-iron and a two-inch putt at the 475-yard 13th.
Actually, it isn't surprising. We have always known Weiskopf had the length and the desire if he could just control his temper. And now, he is doing it. Pretty much, anyhow. Weiskopf plays on in and wins, shooting the back nine in 22, thereby overcoming a somewhat sloppy front side in which he drew four more penalty strokes for stepping on Goalby's ball and unwittingly shoving his wife Jeanne, whom he failed to recognize, over the precipice of the 6th tee for saying "Hi."
As the fantasy ends, Nicklaus ceremoniously slips the winner's green coat on Weiskopf, who in turn says, "You've had it in golf, Jack. Good luck in the real-estate business." And with that Tom produces a submachine gun and riddles half the people on the veranda, remarking, "Hope I got a few writers with that volley."
In terms of real images, not dreams, it is difficult to think of a fiery, restless, sometimes pouting Tom Weiskopf being a suitable winner for the tranquil, stately, aristocratic Masters. It is like contemplating Lee Trevino presiding over a session of Parliament. And yet, if you want to deal in statistics and whatever may be hidden there, Tom Weiskopf on past performance at Augusta as well as on his imposing talents looms—sometimes he lurks but mainly he looms—as A Very Serious and Distinct Masters Possibility.
The trouble with Weiskopf is that he tends to loom more than win. He has been looming as the next Nicklaus for six years now and he is still searching for his first major championship. On the other hand, evidence continues to mount that Weiskopf is more than ready, particularly at Augusta, a course that is perfectly tailored for his long, high tee shots—he is longer than Nicklaus—and his splendid all-round game. Ready, of course, if he is not angry or distracted.
Statistic: In the last five Masters (which constitute Weiskopf's Augusta history) he has shot 11 subpar rounds out of the 20 played. Only Nicklaus has more. One more.
Statistic: Weiskopf's stroke average for the five tournaments is 71.6, second only to Nicklaus.
Statistic: Weiskopf has twice tied for second in the Masters, including last year; he has never been out of the top 24; and he has yet to shoot a competitive round of worse than 74.
Statistic: Weiskopf smiled 47 times last month and signed 102 autographs.
What follows now is a candid interview with one of the most gifted players in golf who is, at the same time, one of the most puzzling; with a man who is either going to win this Masters or another very soon; with the only player on the tour today who has the obvious capability of joining Nicklaus and Trevino at the top; with a thoroughly honest athlete. As we listen in, a friend speaks:
FRIEND: You're 30 years old, but Nicklaus says you're only 23 in playing experience and maturity.
WEISKOPF: He's right. I never played much amateur golf outside of Cleveland. Before I turned pro, I'd never been anywhere. As for my temper, it's not as bad as it used to be. It just makes me so mad not to do what I know I can do.
FRIEND: Like beat Nicklaus.
WEISKOPF: Like beat everybody.
FRIEND: Do you really believe that?
WEISKOPF: Damn right. The only thing wrong with my game is my head. I get distracted. I get mad. But at least I know it. And I'm getting better. I don't bogey three straight holes anymore after a bad shot. Also, I've gone back to work on my game.
FRIEND: You weren't working?
WEISKOPF: I'd gotten lazy for two years. I found out I could make a lot of money without working at it, so I quit working. I really did. But I woke up last year and said, "Tom, you've got a chance to be a really great player and you're stupid not to take advantage of your ability." I'm working on everything. Not just my game but my moods.
FRIEND: Are you still learning shots?
WEISKOPF: All the time. You know how dumb I was? I went about eight years without knowing how to hit an iron out of the rough. I shanked a lot. I wasn't aiming left of the target and taking it back outside. Jack told me one day.
FRIEND: What made you think you could make it on the tour if you'd never had any real competitive experience?
WEISKOPF: I went to the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1964. It was the first tournament I'd ever seen. And the first two guys I saw were Terry Dill and Bob Rosburg on the tee. I watched Terry take this big wild cut at it and I saw Bob stand up to it the way he does. I said to a friend, "How much money do they make?" And I knew I could do it.
FRIEND: Does your image bother you? Do you think you are misunderstood?
WEISKOPF: I wish everybody knew that no matter what the expression on my face is, I'm not mad at anybody but myself.
FRIEND: You have been fined a few times for using profanity.
WEISKOPF: Isn't that something? Boy, what kind of a person is it who doesn't have anything else to do but tell the PGA that a golfer cusses? That really gets me. Sure I cuss sometimes. I get mad. I guess if I'm around anybody from the PGA, though, I'd better say, "Jesus Christ Superstar." I'll try to remember to say that the next time I hit a perfect three-wood that ought to wind up about three feet from the hole but bounces over the green instead.
FRIEND: Did you tell Joe Dey last summer that even if you made the Ryder Cup team this year you wouldn't play?
FRIEND: Nobody turns down the Ryder Cup team. Joe said you told him you couldn't play because you wanted to go to Alaska and hunt some kind of goat instead.
WEISKOPF: I said that.
FRIEND: Were you serious?
WEISKOPF: No, I just said it. What happened was, two years ago I would have won the Vardon Trophy and made the Ryder Cup team if it hadn't been for something that wasn't my fault. Through the oversight of another guy who forgot to sign a form for me and mail it in on time, I missed becoming a PGA member by five days. So I was ineligible, even though everybody admitted it wasn't my fault.
FRIEND: That doesn't seem right.
WEISKOPF: Well, nobody corrected it. The guy just let my application sit on his desk until the deadline passed, so I blew the Vardon and Ryder Cup.
FRIEND: So you told Joe you would rather hunt a goat than play on the Ryder Cup team? Pretty funny. And you weren't hot at all?
WEISKOPF: I was really hot. But of course I'd play on the Ryder Cup team if I made it. It'd be a great honor.
FRIEND: So you have forgotten about the incident, right?
WEISKOPF: Maybe. That's one of my troubles. I have a hard time getting things out of my mind. I know we've got a good deal out here on the tour. It's fantastic. The money and all. But when I start playing bad, I start blaming everything: having to go in the Army when I was playing super in 1968; not having any money when I was growing up; not getting enough experience; the PGA. Dumb things in my mind that come back to me after a bad shot or a bad round. I used to start thinking that I could really live up to the predictions about me if I'd only been lucky. But I know I am lucky. I'm lucky to be in the business I'm in and have the ability I have. I've got a great wife and family. I've got the game. I'm just about ready to prove it.
FRIEND: Is the wife that important?
WEISKOPF: I think so. There are a lot of great wives on the tour and there are some that aren't. Jeanne is great and she understands me. There are some, though, that if I was married to them, well...I'd quit golf. Or marriage.
FRIEND: Do you honestly believe you can beat anybody, or is that talk?
WEISKOPF: Confidence is half the game, but I don't want it to sound like bragging. I haven't won a major championship yet, I just know I can. Most of the tournaments I've won, I've won against the best. I beat Jack in the stretch at Inverrary last year and Trevino in the World Match Play final. In 1971 I won at Philadelphia with Jack on my heels, and I won Kemper in a playoff with Trevino. Of course, they've beaten me 9,000 times, but this proves they don't always have to beat me. Jack keeps saying I've got everything it takes, and that means a lot to me. I keep going back to what everybody says. I'm slow maturing, but I know it.
FRIEND: It would seem that Augusta is your best shot at a big one.
WEISKOPF: That course is made for me. I can reach all four of the par 5s in two easily, and I've played the best golf of my life there. Four years ago I shot four straight subpar rounds and lost by a stroke. I always feel like I can take it apart. I love the place. I've been close three times, and that means I can win.
FRIEND: Would you play better if it were you and Jack, or you and Lee, or you and Arnold or Gary?
WEISKOPF: Every time. The big names really make me try. I just love to beat 'em, or try to. Like I've said before, Jack is a good friend and he's the greatest there ever was, but I'd love to be the guy who knocked him out of a Grand Slam. I can't think of anything more fun than if Jack won the Masters, the Open, the British Open and looked like he was going to win the PGA, but here I came with everybody rooting against me and I beat him out of the Grand Slam by a stroke.
FRIEND: That's evil.
WEISKOPF: I'd just say, "Eat your heart out, Jack. You've got 15 or 16 major championships, but now I've got one, and I'm coming after you."
FRIEND: The writers would not exactly adore you for ruining the Slam.
WEISKOPF: I don't know what it is with some of the press. I try to get along. Guess I'm poor at remembering names.
FRIEND: Bob Green covers the tour for the AP every week, and he has been out here for three or four years, and he says you don't know him.
WEISKOPF: Which one's Bob Green?
FRIEND: What happened between you and Bob Goalby at San Diego? Do you get into many scenes like that with other players?
WEISKOPF: I don't get into anything with anybody. I think I've got a lot of good friends on the tour. Jacklin, Yancey, R. H. Sikes, Jamieson, Ed Sneed. Nicklaus. I like everybody. But I guess my face looks like I don't sometimes. Goalby got mad because I didn't say hello to him. I was at my locker reading something and he walked by and said hello, and I didn't say anything. He turned on me. I said, "Jesus Christ [Superstar], Bob, if we all said hello to everybody who says hello, none of us would have time to play golf." He really got mad. I shouted back at him. That's how we left it. But I say hello a lot now. I didn't know so many people got their feelings hurt so easily.
FRIEND: Are you going to win the Masters?
WEISKOPF: I've got as good a chance as anybody, and a better chance than most.
FRIEND: One of the game's immortals whose name we will not mention says you won't ever make it because of the way you walk. He says you walk with your feet pointed out, slew-footed, down the fairway, which is a tip-off on your inner character and concentration. Great players all walk businesslike with their feet pointed straight ahead, he says.
WEISKOPF: Are you joking?
FRIEND: That's what he says. Jack walks that way, and Arnold. Hogan did. Trevino does. You don't.
WEISKOPF: Jesus Christ [Superstar], as if I don't have enough to think about, now I've got to go to Augusta and work on my feet.
WALTER IOOSS JR.