Jack Nicklaus, that mere shadow of a man, was not considered a good bet to take the Hawaiian Open last week. Even though Nicklaus had won his last two tournaments—the Sahara and the Kaiser—this one was a course of another choler. On Thursday, Lee Trevino, last year's winner, had looked at the palm trees swaying under the 40-mile trade winds and told everyone that there was no way Nicklaus could play well in that gale. "I'll even give him a shot a side," said Trevino, who is one of the game's best wind players. Trevino, of course, was also figuring on the possibility that wispy Jack would not even make it through the wind to the 1st tee.
Nicklaus made it to the 1st tee all right and shot a 63—a record nine under par—on that first day. Then the trade winds died down, and Jack's game seemed to die with them. He played the next three rounds in only one under par, while the asocial Aussie, Bruce Crampton, riding the calm, made up nine shots on Jack in the third round to take the lead and then win the tournament by four strokes with a steady 5-under-par 67 on Sunday.
Although he did not become the second golfer to win SI million on the tour, something that will have to wait a few more weeks, Nicklaus was happy with his 63 in that first round. And the fact that Jack, normally a painfully slow player, took only three hours to do it was of some solace to the rest of the pros, who do not call the Hawaiian Open the Mai Tai Festival for nothing. They all realized that the faster they played the sooner they could have a mai tai ("the best" in the Hawaiian language) in their overlapping grips, a bathing suit on their bodies and an open stance in the waters around Waikiki.
The mai tai, a concoction guaranteed to make any losing golfer a sure winner, goes like this: start with half an ounce of orgeat syrup. Add half an ounce of orange cura√ßao, an ounce of fresh lemon juice and two ounces of rum. Toss in a sprig of fresh mint, a stick of fresh sugar cane, a slice of Vanda orchid, a slice of lemon, a slice of lime and a few spears of fresh pineapple. Pour it all over some cracked ice in a glass. Now insert a 6½-inch straw. Ahh, there you have it. Drink.
November 17, 1969
Then you relax and enjoy like Arnold Palmer, who signed more autographs in his Arnold Palmer bathing suit (the only solid-color suit to be seen in Hawaii since the island was discovered by Northwest Airlines) than he did in his Arnold Palmer golf clothes. There was the social whirl, too, for those who wanted it. These arrangements were handled by two experienced planners, Bob Anderson, a 10-handicapper who is the owner (with Phil Linz) of Mr. Laffs pub on New York's East Side, and Joe Carr, a six-year regular on the tour. Anderson, a bachelor, worked exclusively with the married couples, like the Tom Weiskopfs and the Bert Yanceys—directing them to the best restaurants, the best shows, like Morgana King at the Outrigger—the best of everything. Carr, also a bachelor, played host to the young single players at Keone's, a swinging place run by a golf nut named Johnny Uyehara. Carr, who is from Worcester, Mass., was sponsored by Keone's and Uyehara for almost a year on the tour.
Last year on a Mai Tai night Carr even arranged a wedding for one of his tour friends, Jim Grant, who called his girl in Chicago and told her to get the first flight to Hawaii. "Barring late developments, I don't think we'll have any marriages this year," Carr said on the last day of the tournament.
Unlike most of the players at the Mai Tai, Jack Nicklaus avoided the socializing and concentrated mainly on his suddenly revitalized golf game. When he left for Hawaii after winning the playoff for the Kaiser tournament, Jack expected that his wife and two of his four children would join him in Hawaii at the end of the week. Then the entire family came down sick. Jack almost withdrew from the Mai Tai before it started, to head home and see how things were.
After Jack's great round on that first day, when he had a four-stroke lead, he talked about his putting. "I missed only one putt all day," he said. "And I couldn't understand the one I missed. I was making the 45-and 50-footers and then missed that little 15-footer." Then he laughed and was shaking his head as he walked away.
Later that afternoon Nicklaus met Palmer on the beach.
"Quite a round you had," Arnold told him.
"I was putting like you used to," Jack said, smiling.
"You must've been using an Arnold Palmer putter," Arnold said.
"If you stretched my putts out, they'd reach to the mainland," Jack said.
Walking away from the beach, Nicklaus met Frank Beard's wife Pat.
"You look so skinny," she said.
"I've lost 20 pounds," Jack said, tapping his stomach.
"I need your diet," Mrs. Beard said. "Frank's got to lose some weight." Around the tour the players are saying that Beard, this year's leading money winner, is beginning to look like Nicklaus used to.
The 20 missing pounds around Nicklaus' opu, as they say in Hawaii, and the restoration of his single chin help define the change that has taken place in his golf game. "No matter what I do I've still had a terrible year, and I can't get away from that fact," Jack said. "I didn't win when I wanted to. I played poorly at Augusta. They played the U.S. Open on Bermuda grass, and I don't play well on Bermuda. Five drives ruined me at the British Open. And I was hit by riots at the PGA. It was not my year. I used to say, 'Well, next week I'll play better,' but soon I realized I was saying that every week.
"I don't feel different physically," he said. "Mentally, though, it's a whole new game. I pick up a paper and see my picture and say, 'Who's that skinny guy?' Nobody likes to be called fat. Personally, I don't think I was fat. I was big. There is a difference."
On Friday at the Mai Tai, Nicklaus birdied five of the first eight holes, giving him 14 birdies in his first 26 holes—an astonishing pace. Then his putter turned cold. He played the last 10 holes in two over par, finishing with a one-under-par 71 for the round. "It's strange," he said. "I shouldn't have been 63 Thursday and I shouldn't have been 71 today. I'm 134 for two rounds—and that's how I've played. But I really think I should have had a couple of 67s."
Still leading by four strokes, Nicklaus started Saturday playing the way he left off on Friday and immediately lost the lead to Tom Weiskopf. Then Weiskopf got into trouble, and Crampton, who was eight shots behind Nicklaus at the start of the round, took a temporary three-stroke lead with a strong seven-under-par 65. Eventually Nicklaus recovered from a 22-hole slump, during which he did not make a birdie and salvaged a lowly 74—his first over-par round in four tournaments—to close within one stroke of Crampton at the end of the day.
On Sunday Crampton came on even stronger, making birdies on the first two holes, while Nicklaus, playing in the group ahead, missed short birdie putts and had to settle for pars. This gave the little Australian a comfortable three-stroke lead, and he outplayed Nicklaus the rest of the round.
The best thing Bruce did all week, though, was keep his cool. For years he has been known as the mean man on the tour—rude with caddies, galleries, marshals and tournament officials. He still is not Mr. Congeniality, but last week, at least, Crampton had his mouth shut and his temper in control.
So Sunday night they gave Bruce his check for $25,000—enough money to keep him in mai tais, if not in a permanent good humor.