Quick, somebody put in a call to Bobby Jones. His golf tournament, the Masters, is in trouble. The most memorable strokes all week were used to kill a snake. The first-day leader drove here in a truck. The second-day hot-shot is the pro from Taylor's Steak House. And now, heavens to George Archer, an Ed Sneed is about to win the whole ball of divot-digging wax.
Save the hanging of a newspaperman by his own typewriter ribbon, nothing could be worse than having to write about Ed Sneed. They guy has a great golf name and he can't even spell it right. So sneed plays chess and backgammon and combs his hair real nice. They say he is a closet comic, but when you ask what he does that is funny, they say, "You should see his imitation of Palmer's swing-he does it backwards, from the followthrough back to the address."
A thousand yuks, this Sneed.
Whatever Grambling is to the NFL., Ohio State is to the PGA. The old man, Jack Nicklaus, is only one of four Ohio State guys in this Masters.
Tom Weiskopf, John Cook and, yes, Ed Sneed are the others. If Sneed wins Sunday, Woody Hayes may show up to tell us how Hitler lost World War II by using a weak grip on his driver.
Some Masters weeks are memorable for the quality of men's work. We'll remember 1979 for a rainstorm, for so long a recalcitrant beauty, the Augusta National course threw open its arms this week. Of the original 72 players, fully 28 are under par going into Sunday's last 18 holes.
The course has been to submissive-windless, soft and slow-that Sneed shot 68, 67 and 69 the first three days. Another 67 would tie the 72-hole record first set by Nicklaus and later matched by Raymond Floyd. The 36-hole qualifying cut was made at 145, three strokes under the previous record.
To give you an idea of how sweet Augusta has been to its suitors this week, Mr. X made 11 threes in a record-tying round of 64 that he finished today.
Mr. Xc is not one of your basic classic champions. He is Miller Barber, who is 48 and owner of a body that requires a yard of belt in circumnavigation at the equator. Narber is seven shots behind Sneed, but he is only two shots behind Craig Standler, who could use two Barber belts at once.
Bruce Lietzke drove down fabled Magnolia lane after his first-day 67 in a four-wheel drive truck. Somewhere, the august Mr. Jones must have covered his eyes. Then, the second day, here came Craig Stadler whose physique has been compared unfavorably to a bag of laundry waiting pick-up.
After the 25-year-old Californian he once played in an important tournament wearing sandals-shot his astonishing 66 to tie for the second-day lead, a nosy newspaperman asked, "What are your dimensions?"
Stadler paused. In leaped his wife Sue, whom Stadler met while eating at Taylor's Steak House, whose name is emblazoned on his golf bag.
Sue said, "Lie."
Estimates of Stadler's size are 5-foot 10 and 220. "He needs to lose some weight, and so do I," said Sue. "And so do some of you guys asking those questions." She smiled when she said questions." She smiled when she said it and newspapermen raised their chests in self-defense.
Augusta National Golf Club is very Southern proper. The physical layout is breathtakingly beautiful, a white plantation set on green velvet draped across gently rolling meadows. Jones' character made it a cathedral of golf, where serious golfers work seriously at achieving immortality.
That explains, in part, Ed Sneed, who has revealed nothing of his reported wit, not even the Palmer-in-reverse impression. It does not explain, and somewhere Walter Hagen must be tipping a Scotch in thanks, one Frank Urban Zoeller Jr.
Fuzzy Zoeller can be a star in golf. His 69 today left him tied for fourth place, six shots behind Sneed.
"Want something to drink?" a Masters functionery asked Zoeller when he came into the press room. Nicklaus opted all week for a diet drink.
"A beer, a beer, please, said Zoeller. His tone was I've-crossed-a-flaming-desert-and-I'm-dying-if-I-don't-get-a beer.
Zoeller is 28, a legend in New Albany, Ind.
"I used to run around and chase wild women," he said in front of a dozen question-askers who need to lose weight.
"Don't write that own," Zoeller said.
Pens moved furiously.
"Okay," Zoeller said, smiling. "That's the honest-to-God truth."
Walter Hagen, maybe the best athlete ever connected with a golf stick, once arrived at the first tee in a limousine, fresh from a party that loved midnight so grandly it decided to cheer the dawn, too.
"I've never made it that far," said an admiring Zoeller, admitting only to carousing at 2 in the morning when his tee time was 8 a.m.
Zoeller hits the ball into the next county (his longest measured drive is 364 yards), flies iron shots boldly at the hole and makes the necessary putts to be this season's third-leading money winner, with more than $101,000. He won the San Diego Open.
"Hell, I'm having fun out there," Zoeller said. "I'm whistling, yelling, hollering, signing autographs, answering questions. Golf is a pleasure for me. It isn't work. Others guys-Ed Sneed is not what you call loosey-goosey."
Can Zoeller come from six shots behind to win in his very first Masters? More precisely, can Ed Sneed lose?
"This is the Masters," Zoeller said. He means Ed Sneed can shoot 77 today.
"Ed's asleep so far," Zoeller said. "Maybe he'll wake up."