The last of 1977's four major championships, the PGA, is in the record books and Jack Nicklaus once again finds himself without one to his credit.
Nicklaus, 37, joined the pro tour in 1962 and in that span has missed winning a major championship (Masters, U.S. and British Opens, and PGA) in only five years - 1964, 1968, 1974, 1976 and now 1977. Significantly, that's three misses out of the last four years.
He has won four PGA championships, five Masters, three U.S. Opens, and two British Opens. He also has finished second 14 times in the Big Four. His third-place finish in this year's PGA won him $15,000.
Is Nicklaus getting too old at 37?
"No," he snapped. "Maybe the time will come in, I hope, the very distant future, when I no longer can compete. But how can anybody say I'm too old on the basis of my record in 1977? I was second in the Masters; second in the British Open, and I made a good run at the PGA. Obviously, I'm playing well enough to win. There isn't much difference between finishing second and winning.
"I have played well enough to win at least three majors this year. [Nicklaus finished tied for 10th in the U.S. Open at Tulsa.] Obviously, I'm playing well enough to win. I'm proud of my record.
"Maybe in tennis or in baseball somebody can win every time, but not in golf. Every time I come that close and miss, it hurts me more than if I had been playing badly. I'm old enough to know the difference between winning and losing."
Nicklaus will stay in California for a few days to watch his 15-year-old son, Jack II, try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur in San Jose. Then the father will go on to Rye, N.Y., for the Westchester Classic starting Thursday.
Lenny Wadkins, the 27-year-old product of Wake Forest who finally won his first major title Sunday after a series of physical setbacks and disappointments, emerged from the "rabbit" class. Because he finished 64th on the money-winning list last year with $42,849, Wadkins has had to qualify for this year's tour events.
Wadkins won $116,000 in his sophomore year on the tour in 1972 and was over the $200,000 mark the next year. Then came hard times. He won the USI Classic in 1973 and then went into a slump. His problem was a physical one. He had gall bladder surgery and removal of his appendix in December, 1974.
Gene Littler and Wadkins had played together saturday and Wadkins had wished the 47-year-old veteran good luck the next day. When Wadkins won the title Sunday in a playoff with Littler on the third hole, he said: "I hated to be the villain and beat a fine man like Gene Littler."