The Post was in error in Friday's editions when it said Tom Purtzer, co-leader in the U.S. Open, had never come close to winning a PGA event. He won the Glenn Campbell-Los Angeles Open in 1977. CAPTION: (NEW-LINE)Chart, U.S. Open Scores.
Frankly, Tom Purtzer has no idea how he can be tied for the first-round U.S. Open lead with four other equally dumb-founded golfers named Andy Bean, Lou Graham, Lon Hinkle and Keith Fergus.
When you start the day with a bogey, a double bogey and a triple bogey in the first five holes, you aren't supposed to finish with a one-under-par 70 on the Inverness Club course, which has the world's best players whimpering.
"It sure was an exciting round," the obscure touring pro said. "What I can remember of it."
When he wasn't taking his shoes off to blast out of a pond or hitting a shot out from under a bush left-handed, Purtzer was chili-dipping a chip shot, pitching off a pine cone for a birdie or taking relief from a cart path.
When the smoke cleared, Purtzer had eight birdies - about a month's worth for one of the PGA Tour's conservative check-cashers, who worries about staying in the exempt top 60 rather than winning the U.S. Open.
The hallmark of the day was insanity barely contained, as steady wind and a baking sun turned the narrow, rough-guarded fairways and tiny, rock-hard greens of Inverness into a nightmare.
"No shot was good enough to be sure you wouldn't take bogey," said Tom Weiskopf, part of a seven-man logjam at 71, in which Jerry Pate and Larry Nelson were the other prominent names. "It was like trying to land shots on pavement and putt downhill on glass. You could hit a great golf shot and get nothing for it."
In their desperation, some of the pros even thumbed their poses at the stodgy USGA and violated etiquette (but no rules) by taking a shortcut via the 17th fairway when playing the par-5 eighth hole.
"It saves about 50 yards," Hinkle said. "I was real tempted not to tell anybody about it, but (snicker) I figure it's entered the USGA's mind already."
"Take a good look at the famous shortcut," Graham said. "It won't be there tomorrow."
Indeed, it won't. By sundown, the miffed USGA had announced its plan to transplant a 15-foot-high tree overnight and stick it dead in the line of would-be scofflaws.
At least the dozen lucky gents who matched or bettered par could laugh at their bafflement over how to stay one step ahead of the Inverness pitfalls.
Not so for Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, the cofavorites, who showed distinct signs of psychic self-destruction.
Nicklaus double bogeyed the short 18th hole, then sang the blues again about how he hit the ball well, yet scored 74.
Watson was a more perplexing study. After a disheartening round of 75 during which he did almost nothing of distinction, Watson made a brave show of laughing, smiling 3nd putting his arms out beside him with his eyes wide as if to say, "What can you do?"
After his third consecutive crippling start in the first round of an Open, it is clear that the game's top player still has trouble reaching a competitive peak for the major titles - the ones he covets most.
"I'm not driving well . . . I'm guiding the ball like a weekend golfer who's going bad. I'm not making very many free swings at it," said Watson, who missed seven greens in regulation and saved par only once.
"I don't feel I'm out of the tournament yet. Nobody really made a move today. But I've gotta relax and come out tomorrow with a fresh attitude."
The commoon denominator among the five leaders was that they wooed the 6,982-yard Inverness with patience and one-putts.
"I love to play a course where you're proud to shoot even par," said Graham, a droll wit from Nashville who won the '75 Open and always plays best on sadomasochistic tracks. "On a lotta courses we play, that's a dawg score.
"On these Open courses that can beat your brains out, you gotta remember that every time you make just one little par, you move past a whole lot more people than are gonna pass you with birdies. Yup, every little old par."
Graham, true to his word, saved par five times with chips from the brutal rough that left him short putts. At the 10th hole, his 70-foot chip found the hole for birdie.
This was a day for blind squirrels finding acrons. No one attacked the course successfully; rather they simply laid back and hoped for the best.
"I was mostly over par all day, but I didn't get upset," said Bean, a red-haired giant who won in Atlanta last week with an astronomical 23-under par. "After I three-putted the 10th hole, I said, 'Well, damn, Andy, you know you're gonna make some birdies somewhere. Just relax.'"
Bean birdied three of the last six holes.
That was no match for the unconscious heroics of Purtzer, who had one of the truly bizarre rounds ever for an Open leader. He shot 31 on the tougher back none with five birdies on the last six holes, including four in a row from 13 through 16.
Brother, did he need to.
The damage came at the fourth and fifth holes, where he lost five shots to par."I didn't hit that many bad shots, he said of the double bogey and triple bogey, but he did run into a pond, a bush, a trap and a whole bunch of crocked putts.
"Normally, I'm a very conservative player, I'm no birdie machine," Purtzer said. "But I needed to sink a couple gambles and hit a couple risky drives. I had to let fly."
Purtzer's momentum shifted. He sank a 30-foot birdie putt, then, one hole later, he found his ball atop a pine cone.
"I just hit it a little firmer and ended up making a birdie," he said.
The back nine was pure joy. At the par-5 13th, Purtzer basted from a bunker and sank a 12-footer for bird. At the 448-yard 14th, he left a three-iron six inches away and made another bird.
"Might say I was kinda pumped up," said Purtzer, who then knocked a 343-yard downhill drive with the wind at the 458-yard 15th and wedged to 15 feet for another birdie.
After getting relief from a cart path after his drive at 16, he sank another long birdie putt. And, naturally, he birdied the 18th with a downhill snake of 15 feet to finish his magic turnabout.
"I feel fortunate to be back in the hunt," said Purtzer, who has never come close to winning a PGA event.
Can he stay near the lead? "Not if I'm five over after five again tomorrow," he said.
Perhaps the oddest motivation among the leaders was Hinkle's. He was still in seventeenth heaven after playing a friendly round with the legendary Ben Hogan last week in Fort Worth.
"Hogan donesn't play too much anymore, and he doesn't just play with anyone," said Hinkle, a protege of Lee Trevino who has won $117,665 in nearanoymity this year. "It's not like you just go over to Shady Oaks and get into the game with Ben."
This proved to be a particularly blustery day for two unfortunate players with early dew-sweeping tee times - who were penalized two strokes each for slow play, boosting them along to 84 and 86, respectively.
"I knew somebody was going to get nailed for "two-shotter," said the first man to tee off, Randy O'Linger, who played so rapidly that his group soon opened a gap of 1 1/2 holes in front of Inskeep's trio.
"I didn't want it to be me," O'Linger said, "because I wasn't playing too badly. I had an 81, but it could easily have been 78."
Even without a shortcut.
Lee Elder of Washington, D.C., carded 37 an both nines to finish four off the pace with 74.