The GOAT: Nicklaus and Woods settle golf's great debate
At precisely 9 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time, the official starter stepped to the microphone beside the first tee at Pebble Beach.
“Welcome to today’s final match in Golf Digest’s Greatest of All Time Invitational,” said Bob Jones, the honorary starter. “Eighteen holes of match play between our two finalists to identify the best player who ever lived.”
“Not named Hagen,” said Walter Hagen, in a tuxedo, cocktail in hand.
That got a good laugh from the assembled players around the tee. “Tell us why you’re wearing that tuxedo again, Sir Walter,” said Jones.
“Funny you should mention that,” said Hagen. “I got home too late to change.”
“Introducing the winner of Bracket 1,” said Jones, “originally from Cypress, California, Tiger Woods!”
Tiger, in his Sunday red, stepped forward and tipped his cap. Tall, young, lean and hungry, staring down the first fairway like The Terminator, he didn’t seem to notice anyone else was even there.
“Introducing the winner of Bracket 2,” said Jones, “from Columbus, Ohio, Jack Nicklaus!”
Jack, looking fit and confident in a yellow argyle sweater—hair a bit shaggier, the way you might remember him from, say, 1972—joined Tiger on the tee. The two shook hands, and three things were immediately clear: The two liked and respected each other, everyone else there was terrified of them, and neither Jack nor Tiger feared the other, not even a little bit.
“Play well, and may the best man win,” said Bob.
Sam Snead had been asked to conduct the coin toss to determine who played first, but he agreed only if he could keep the coin. Tiger called heads, won the flip and stung a 2-iron 288 yards straight down the middle. Jack, a wry smile on his face—per the rules, he was playing with the latest equipment, and the same modern ball—smashed his 1-iron 290. The two men set off, and a small crowd—players, writers and VIPs—trailed after them.
“Game on,” said Jim Nantz, from the home tower above 18. The match wasn’t actually being telecast, except for closed circuit to the Tap Room—and a pirated feed at Bing Crosby’s house off the 13th fairway—but every big name in broadcasting showed.
Both players hit darts to the green, six feet from the flag. Neither caddie said a word. Angelo Argea, Jack’s longtime looper, never read putts, and Stevie Williams, back on Tiger’s bag, took a moment to threaten the life of a passing squirrel as both men drained their birdies. “All square after one,” said Nantz. “Let’s send it out to our old friend Jim McKay on the course.”
“Jim, conditions are ideal,” said McKay, walking with the group. “A slight chill in the air, not a breath of wind—and look at that: Tiger’s caddie just treed a squirrel.”
At the second, a converted par 5 playing as a long par 4, both men split the fairway. Jack carved his approach to 20 feet, and Tiger dropped a towering 5-iron just inside him.
Manning the broadcast tower near the third tee, Henry Longhurst, the venerable dean of English golf broadcasters, remarked: “Just extraordinary. That majestic shot drifted in as gently as a 101st Airborne paratrooper descending silently behind enemy lines.”
“Positively lethal,” said his partner, Peter Alliss, Longhurst’s successor as dean of English broadcasters. “But I’d have to say it put me more in mind of the British 1st Airborne landing at Arnhem, resplendent in their distinctive maroon berets, and of course the familiar shoulder patch of Bellerophon astride his winged steed Pegasus.”
Spectators watch action on the 7th fairw
Spectators watch action on the 7th fairway and green on the last preview day prior to the start of the 110th US Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links at the US Open golf championship in Pebble Beach, California on June 16, 2010. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
“Sir Nick,” said Jim, turning to his booth partner. “What would you say to that?”
“Do I sound like I went to Oxford, mate?” asked a chuckling Nick Faldo. “Tiger’s got the easier putt.”
Jack’s birdie try hung on the high side. Tiger ran his in for a 3. Tiger, 1 up.
At the par-4 third, both men cut the dogleg with soaring drives over the tree-lined ravine. Jack’s ball settled 50 yards short of the green, but Tiger’s took an awkward bounce. Lee Trevino and Ray Floyd, walking the fairway, watched Tiger’s ball disappear into the gunch near the left greenside bunker.
“Man, you could lose a ball in that mess,” said Ray.
“You could lose a bag in there,” said Lee. “Fifty says he makes 6.”
“Done. Good gravy, what the hell is Stevie doing now?”
Trailing the golfers, Stevie Williams had just ripped a camera out of the hands of a spectator and was pulverizing it with a tree limb. Six heavily armed men had formed a circle around him.
“And don’t let it happen again, Mr. President,” said Stevie.
“Sincerest apologies, Stevie,” said Bill Clinton, waving off his bodyguards. “My fault entirely.”
“Sorry, Stevie,” said George W. Bush, Clinton’s companion, with a crooked grin. “Take ’er easy.”
“Man, even the Secret Service is scared of that guy,” said Lee.
“He used to work for me,” said Ray. “How do you think I felt?”
Jack pitched to six feet. Tiger needed two hacks to gouge his ball out, skulling it off the back of the green. Tiger hurled a string of curses toward the bay and then chipped to five feet. Jack smoothed in his birdie. Lying 4, Tiger scooped up his ball with his wedge, bounced it twice off the face, once between his legs, and batted it into the bay.
Nike’s Phil Knight turned to his creative director and said, “I’ve got a great idea … ”
As Lee handed Ray a fifty—“That helps make up for El Paso,” said Ray—Sam Snead and Tommy Bolt strolled by.
“Can you believe that Tiger?” said the Slammer. “Don’t know when I’ve ever been so impressed. Only 24, and this kid’s got it all: range, imagination, the ability to visualize … ”
“He made 5 with a gimme,” said Ray.
“Not that,” said Tommy. “You shoulda heard him cuss.”
All square after three. The breeze stirred, blowing in off the bay as they reached the ocean, but both men took driver at the par-4 fourth, cleared the fairway cross bunker and pitched close for easy birdies.
After pars at the fifth, both men pounded driver to the edge of the sea cliff on the par-5 sixth, but Tiger’s ball ran into heavy rough. Jack lofted a brawny 5-iron to the front of the green. Tiger took a monstrous hack with a 7, airmailing it over the cove to the elevated plateau, where it scampered to the middle of the green.
“Jim,” said David Feherty, “I’m calling my optometrist ’cause I can’t believe my eyes. I’m fairly certain I couldn’t have made that shot with a weed wacker, a jai-alai cesta and a papal dispensation.”
“Set the mood for us as they’re walking to the green.”
“It’s getting testy out here; Jack just said ‘Nice shot.’ ”
Both men got down in two for easy birdies, still all square, as they moved to the short par-3 seventh. Jack and Tiger hit wedges inside 15 feet. Jack ran it straight in for a 2, and Tiger dropped a matching birdie on top of it.
A Shark In the air
“Still all square as they move to the eighth,” said Nantz, “where we pick up the action with our friend Greg Norman.”
“Still can’t believe he beat me in the first round,” said Faldo.
“I heard that, Nick,” said Norman, shouting over engine noise. “Jim, I’m high above the eighth fairway, piloting my chopper, and Jack and Tiger have hit terrific tee shots, flirting with that cliff on the right. I’m taking ’er down for a closer look as they hit their approaches.”
“Be careful, Greg.”
“Always, Jim. I can tell you there’s a massive front moving in from the east; looks like we’re in for nasty weather. Speaking of bad luck, I still can’t believe Tiger beat me in the second round.”
They heard an ominous clank, and Norman’s chopper wobbled for a moment.
“What was that, Greg?”
“No worries, Jim—guess I got a little too close—Stevie just dinged my fuselage with a rock. Just gonna ease ’er back up—all good fun; Stevie used to work for me, you know—ah, too bad, Tiger’s knocked his approach into that back-left bunker, which explains the rock, but Jack’s hit a cracking shot, middle of the green.”
The chopper continued swaying at the higher altitude. “Greg, it looks like you’re still having difficulty.”
“Good eye, Jim; seems that rock punctured my fuel line. Heading back to the pad, but I’ll be airborne again soon as we get this sorted. Shark One, over and out.”
The chopper peeled away. Tiger’s shot from the bunker, on a downhill lie to a back-left flag on a severely sloped green, ran 20 feet past, and he missed the comebacker. Jack eased his birdie attempt to six inches, and Tiger conceded the hole.
“And with that, Jack takes his first lead of the day!” said Nantz, cranking up the volume. “As they continue on three of the toughest par 4s anywhere, we’re joined in the booth by our good friend Johnny Miller.”
“That’s OK, Nick, I don’t mind standing,” said Johnny.
Nick covered his mic and said to the crew: “Can we get another chair in here for ‘Mr.’ Miller please?”
“How do you see the match so far, Johnny?” asked Nantz.
“Not very well if I can’t get a chair,” said Johnny. “Actually it’s kind of a funny deal. I said I’d come out of retirement if Jack and Tiger ended up in the final—by the way, I totally believe Tiger beat me in the first round; I played so bad I got a get-well card from the IRS—though that drive he just hit on 9’s not his best work, and I’m disappointed Jack pulled his left there, but that’s golf—which, as you know, Nick, is just another name for choking.”
“Why’s he saying this to me?” Faldo whispered to Nantz. “That’s just weird.”
Tiger’s second shot landed short of the green, and Jack’s approach released to 12 feet. Tiger ran his chip dead at the hole, and it creased the lip but spun out. Jack conceded the par, then bent over his birdie putt.
“I see Jack’s caddie Angelo’s signing autographs in the gallery,” said Miller. “Jack doesn’t need any help reading this one … but he slides it by on the right. Kinda surprising; that’s an opportunity lost—Cheez Whiz, Nick?”
“Straight from the can? No thanks, Johnny, but knock yourself out.”
“So as they halve the ninth and make the turn,” said Nantz, “the wind’s picking up and that storm Greg Norman mentioned is heading our way—Johnny, are we in for some of that infamous Pebble weather?”
“Could be, but you should probably ask Jack ’cause you’ll never hear him say, ‘I don’t know’ about anything. I’m not trying to be critical here, folks.”
“Well you’re doing a bang-up job,” muttered Faldo.
Jack and Tiger crushed their drives at 10 just off the left bunker, then striped long irons pin high. Tiger, grinding over the line, slammed his 15-footer dead center for birdie and pumped his fist. Jack, matching Tiger’s intensity, watched his curl right to the lip, where a gust of wind stopped it one roll short.
“All square after 10!” shouted Nantz. “Now let’s send it over to Jack Whitaker, in the Invitational’s media center.”
“Jim, golf has enjoyed an eternal love affair with the written word, and we’re blessed to have here today all the heavyweights from history.”
He passed two men in tweed sharing gin and tonics: “Englishmen Bernard Darwin and British humorist P.G. Wodehouse, creator of Bertie and Jeeves. … L.A. Times great Jim Murray, and the pride of Texas, Golf Digest’s Dan Jenkins, with Ben Hogan,” while the next pair enjoyed martinis: “The New Yorker’s elegant immortals Herbert Warren Wind and novelist John Updike.” Whitaker passed a long-haired man levitating nine inches above his chair—“author of the mystical classic Golf in the Kingdom, Michael Murphy”—then approached an elderly gent in a three-piece suit, alone, sobbing into a handkerchief: “And finally, O.B. Keeler, who’s been weeping inconsolably ever since Bob Jones lost to Nicklaus in the quarterfinals.”
“Bob is simply the finest young man who ever lived,” said Keeler. “Abe Lincoln, Julius Caesar and Aristotle, all rolled into one … and for him to lose to a strapping Germanic brute who plays a game with which Bob is so utterly unfamiliar, I don’t think I’ll ever get over it …”
“Sorry to interrupt,” said Nantz. “After halving 11, the action has moved to 12, where things are really heating up. Let’s send it out to our old friend, The Squire himself, Gene Sarazen.”
Sarazen stood greenside at the par-3 12th, in natty plus fours and bucket hat. “Thanks, Jim, I’m here with that effervescent South African exercise enthusiast, Gary Player, and Rory McIlroy, one of the game’s young greats, but I still can’t believe you beat me in the first round.”
“Got a bit lucky,” said Rory, “but honestly, neither of us were going to get by Jack in the second.”
“I always say, boys, the key to beating Jack,” said Player, raising a forefinger, “is you must always believe in yourself and never give up. You’ll still lose, but you’ll come away feeling anything is possible.”
“Except beating Jack,” said Rory.
“Exactly! Think positive!”
“Can you fellas tell us what we just saw here at 12?” asked Sarazen.
“Well, Jack hit a great tee shot to about 18 inches,” said Rory.
“And then Tiger launched the identical shot—uncanny!”
“It landed right on Jack’s ball mark,” said Rory.
“Tiger’s ball rolled straight for the cup,” said Player, “hit Jack’s ball, knocked it sideways, and then hung on the lip.”
“Just incredible,” said Sarazen. “Anyway, Jim, birdies for both at the 12th, still all square.”
Two large figures moved into the frame behind them. The camera tilted up to reveal Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, jogging in place, wearing workout gear.
“Dude,” said D.J.
“Ready?” asked Koepka.
“Squire, Rory, if you’ll excuse me,” said Player, “these youngsters asked me for some fitness tips, so I’m to put them through their paces. Off we go, boys—look lively.” Player raced away at a blistering clip, Johnson and Koepka struggled to catch him. “You’re welcome to join us, Rory!”
“I’d rather bench press Colin Montgomerie,” said Rory, opening an umbrella.
At the 13th, as the men reached their perfect tee shots, they were distracted by Count Basie’s Orchestra, and the buzz of Bing Crosby’s house party. Crosby spotted them and called through a megaphone:
“Ahoy, mateys—anyone aboard in need of sustenance, or a refreshing libation?”
Nicklaus and his caddie had a brief discussion, then Angelo set down the bag and walked toward Crosby. As Tiger took his stance, Stevie turned toward the party and screamed:
Dead silence. After Jack and Tiger hit approaches to the green, the party resumed and correspondent Roger Maltbie walked up to Nicklaus:
“Jack, can you tell us what you just discussed with Angelo?”
“Sure. Angelo said he was thirsty, and Bing’s pouring free drinks,” said Jack, shouldering his bag. “Angelo said he’d find someone in there to carry for him, so we’ll see—unless you’d like to volunteer, Roger.”
“Did somebody say free drinks?” said Maltbie, vectoring toward Crosby’s. “Back to you, Jim.”
“Kind of unusual, right there,” said Miller.
Jack eased his 20-foot birdie try close for a conceded par. Taking a more aggressive line, Tiger rammed it in for a 3.
“Tiger retakes the lead at 13!” said Nantz.
A surprise caddie
On the tee at 14, with steady rain falling, Tiger massacred his drive 320 yards, carrying the right bunkers. Jack slaughtered his ball, fading toward the middle, even with Tiger.
“Did somebody call for a sherpa?” someone asked as the gallery parted. Bill Murray ambled out of the crowd in a bright-yellow rain slicker, fisherman’s hood and matching boots. Gasps turned to laughter as the three men exchanged greetings. Murray opened an umbrella, hoisted Jack’s bag—pretending to stagger under it for a moment—and they marched off.
“There’s only one way this works, Jack,” said Murray. “You don’t tell me about funny; I won’t tell you about golf.”
“Deal,” said Jack. “I was going to ask my son Jackie to carry, but then I remembered he was only 11 in 1972.”
Murray shook his head. “Jack, don’t ever mess with the mysteries of the time-space continuum. And like I said, leave the comedy to me.”
Jack sized up his shot, pulled his 3-wood and glanced at Murray. “Whatever you do,” Murray said, “who you are is always right.”
Two-fifty to a back-left pin. Jack gave it a lashing, dead on line into the throat between the bunkers, settling 25 feet right of the pin.
Tiger didn’t hesitate, pulled his 3-wood and answered, carrying the front-right bunker, drawing it to the back middle fringe. Stevie shot a fiery glare at Murray: “Beat that!”
“That all you got, tough guy?” asked Murray. “Let me explain something: If you chase two rabbits, you’ll not catch either one.”
For the first time all day, Stevie looked confused.
Tiger, away, trickled a ticklish eagle try down to less than three feet. Murray stood behind Jack as he lined up the putt.
“The essence of the Way is detachment,” said Murray, then walked off and jumped in a puddle.
Jack shook his head, amused, took a run at eagle and ran it dead center. The gallery erupted. Murray tried to talk Jack out of conceding Tiger’s birdie, until Jack explained he’d already won the hole.
“And with that roar at 14, they’re all square again!” said Nantz. “Let’s welcome into the booth my old friend and partner Ken Venturi.”
“Thanks, Jim,” said Ken, trying to slide in a chair. “Little crowded in here.”
“Try slipping the maitre d’ a twenty,” said Miller.
A large, triangular shape was riding in on the wind over the 15th tee as Tiger prepared to tee off.
“Hold on, I’m being told we’ve got Greg Norman back with us,” said Nantz.
“That’s right, Jim,” shouted Norman over a howling wind. “I’ve commandeered a hang glider, and I’m coming in over 15—tad bumpy, but the view’s sensational. We’re directly downwind here, and Tiger’s hit a ripper—felt it whiz right by. I’m going to circle back for Jack’s shot … hold on, is that what I think it is?”
“Looks like Stevie’s taken something from the bag and tossed it into the air,” said Nantz.
“Right, that’s a boomerang headed straight for me—evasive action!”
As Nicklaus hit his drive, the glider veered hard right—just avoiding the boomerang—caught a heavy gust and sailed off course toward houses across the street, where a loud crash was heard.
“Greg, are you all right?”
A few choice words were bleeped, dogs barked, and then: “Seen worse, Jim. Tangled up in somebody’s patio set—good boy; let go of my pants—and the glider’s a total loss, but if my arm’s not a compound fracture, I’ll get right back out there.”
“No hurry, Greg,” said Nantz. “Now Ken, Tiger’s in fine shape, but it looks like Jack’s drive caught that left fairway bunker.”
“That’s right, Jim. Probably didn’t help having a UFO pass directly overhead as he swung.”
“I see Bill Murray’s got a few choice words for Stevie,” said Faldo.
“A boomerang, really? You know who I’m gonna call right now, Crocodile Dumbass?” said Murray, dialing a phone. “You know who I’m gonna call?”
“No, who you gonna call?” asked Stevie.
“Ha! I just wanted to hear you say it,” said Murray, pocketing the phone. “Karma’s coming for you, pal, and a hard rain’s gonna fall.”
“It already is,” said Stevie, confused.
Jack’s ball had plugged in the middle of the bunker. Murray held out the bag and closed his eyes. Jack chuckled, pulled a 9, caught it clean and ran it onto the front of the green. Tiger eased a low pitch shot that checked up 15 feet left.
“Great recovery by Jack,” said Venturi. “But advantage, Tiger.”
Murray got on his hands and knees beside Jack, and both stared down his 35-footer.
“What do you see?” asked Jack.
“There is a path,” said Murray, cupping the brim of his yellow rain hat, “but only you can find it.”
“Why don’t you go find us some fish sticks?” said Jack.
Murray nodded thoughtfully. “That was funny.”
Jack took his stance, stroked it and followed it halfway to the hole, raising his putter as it dropped. Led by Murray, the crowd erupted again.
“That’ll give you goosebumps—shades of Augusta in ’86!” said Nantz. “And I’m not even sure that’s happened yet.”
The gallery settled as Tiger went to work. With a steady stroke, he read the line and the wind perfectly and nailed it to the back of the hole to match Jack’s birdie. Another eruption.
“They’re both in the zone now, Jim, Johnny and Nick,” said Venturi. “Did I ever tell you about the time Harvie Ward and I played Hogan and Nelson at Cypress?”
“Yes,” said Nantz, Faldo and Miller.
As Ken told the story anyway, Jack and Tiger halved the 16th. Heading to 17, Stevie walked close to Murray: “Don’t know what you’re up to, fella, but you’re not getting in my head.”
Murray’s phone rang. “Excuse me a sec.” He answered. “Hey, buddy … you did? No kidding, where are you? … Yeah, he’s right here. … Great, I’ll tell him.” Murray hung up and turned to Stevie. “Somebody wants to talk with you.”
They turned a corner. Arnold Palmer stepped into view, smiled menacingly, and held up the boomerang. He beckoned Stevie with an index finger. Stevie froze.
“Nobody refuses The King, my friend,” said Murray. “I’ll watch the bag for you.”
Stevie set the bag down and headed to Arnie. Jack and Tiger turned and watched from the tee as Palmer put an arm around Stevie’s shoulder, walking him around the trees out of sight.
Murray shouldered both bags and hustled to the tee. “Sorry for the delay, gentlemen.”
“What’s Stevie doing?” asked Tiger.
“Oh, Stevie,” said Murray. “Won’t see him no more.”
The trees shook violently, raised voices were heard, cries of pain, and someone apologizing profusely. Murray didn’t even turn around.
“Swing away, fellas,” said Murray. “Life begins where fear ends.”
Jack and Tiger looked at each other and suppressed grins. Jack pulled a 1-iron and stepped to the ball.
“The wind is positively howling here at 17,” said Nantz.
“I thought that was Stevie,” said Faldo.
“It’s coming dead across, left to right,” said Venturi. “I don’t know how you even get to that back-left pin.”
Jack took dead aim, hammered it, and the ball soared straight for the pin.
“Did he overcook it?” said Miller.
“But look at this!” said Nantz. “It apparently hit someone behind the green. … Just incredible, the ball’s rolled back on, 20 feet from the flag! I’m told Gary Player’s down there. What happened, Gary?”
“I was standing beside the elegant Spaniard Severiano Ballesteros when that ball came screaming at us and bounced right off him. Are you all right, Seve?”
“Oh, the ball you know, she only hits the umbrella. Never touches me. And now she is fine. But you know, I still can’t believe Jack—although he’s a beautiful, beautiful man—beat me in the semifinals.”
Back on the tee, Tiger hit a low draw that fought the wind and held its line. It checked up on the right side, just shy of the ridge, about 25 feet.
“Par’s a sure thing for Tiger,” said Miller.
“I’d say the same for Jack,” said Faldo.
“Gary, what is the matter with these boys?” Seve asked. He nodded behind Player at Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, exhausted, bent over, gasping for breath.
“They’re just a bit out of form, but believe me, I’ll have them sorted out in no time.”
Brooks cleared the rain from his eyes, staring at the group approaching the green. “Dude, you seeing what I’m seeing?”
“One caddie carrying both bags?” said Dustin.
“Not that, bro,” said Brooks. “I think that’s the dude from ‘Caddyshack.’ ”
Dustin cleared his eyes. “No way, bro, that’s the dude who played the dude from ‘Caddyshack.’ ”
Jack ran his putt close. Tiger conceded the par and took his stance.
“Tiger with a putt that would give him the lead,” whispered Nantz. “He gets it rolling … right on line … it catches the lip and rolls just by. This match is going to 18 all square!”
Everyone gathered at the 18th tee in the steady downpour. Jack pounded one, fading off the sea wall, deep middle. Tiger launched a titanic tee shot into the gale, sailing it way past the fairway’s lone tree. Declining an offer from Tom Watson to carry a bag, Murray scurried through the gallery, hauling both.
"’Scuse me, coming through, caddie coming through," said Murray.
“But you can’t advise both of them now, Bill,” said Watson, walking after him. “It wouldn’t be ethical.”
“You raise an excellent point, counselor,” said Murray, setting Jack’s bag near his ball. “You take Jack.” He hustled ahead toward Tiger.
Jack and Watson consulted briefly, both grinned—the word Turnberry was mentioned—and Jack pulled his 3-wood. He gave it a rip, tracking for the front of the green.
“And he’s reached in two!” said Nantz. “Jack’s ball settles pin high near the right edge. He’ll have a 25-footer for eagle!”
“Be shapeless, like water,” said Murray, as he stepped away from Tiger. “If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.”
“You’re talking zen. To me. Stick to comedy.”
“My fault entirely. Carry on, good sir.”
Tiger played a perfect 2-iron to the front edge, 22 feet below the hole. The assembled greats circled the green as the two men stalked their putts.
“This putt’s harder than it looks,” said Ken. “But if anyone could make it in this situation, my money’s on Jack Nicklaus.”
The crowd held its breath as Jack whispered at it, rolling ever so slowly down the slope, breaking left, tracking toward the cup … “And it drops for another eagle!” said Nantz.“Oh my goodness!”
“There are pressure putts, and there are pressure putts,” said Venturi, “and that was a pressure putt.”
“Jack f---ing Nicklaus,” said Faldo. “Sorry, did I say that out loud?”
Watson hugged Jack, Murray hugged him. Nicklaus gave a wry smile and shrugged. Tiger chuckled, then took his stance, poised, eyes wide as saucers staring down the line. He stroked it smoothly, straight for the cup …
“And it hangs on the edge!” said Nantz. “One more roll, and it would’ve fallen!”
“Hold on now, Jim, with this wind it could still drop,” said Miller.
“He’s got 10 seconds,” said Venturi.
The crowd edged closer. Ten seconds of tense silence. The ball oscillated twice, nearly fell, but stayed put . . . and Murray blew an air horn into a microphone.
“There he is, your winner of The GOAT Invitational, folks, 1 up at 18, Jack Nicklaus!”
“I can’t hear,” said Miller.
“The two men share a manly embrace,” said Faldo. “Genuine admiration there.”
“No question about it,” said Nantz. “They’re walking off, surrounded by all of history’s greats . . . now the crowd lifts them both onto their shoulders!”
“What a scene, what a moment,” said an emotional Venturi.
“And what a finish to a timeless tournament that truly lived up to its name,” said Nantz.
As the crowd moved toward the clubhouse, Tom Watson and Bill Murray lingered on the green, alone in the rain. The wind settled, a gap opened in the clouds, a ray of sun broke free, and a rainbow appeared over Pebble Beach.
“OK, well, that’s just completely over the top,” said Murray.
“Can you feel it?” asked Watson.
“I feel it,” said Murray, wiping his eyes. “And just so you know, these aren’t tears. It’s rain.”
Watson wiped his eyes, watching Nicklaus as they carried him away. “There goes the finest golfer who ever played this game.”
“And by the way,” said Murray. “I’m not crying, you’re crying.”