Tom Weiskopf hit his tee shot into Rae's Creek on the 12th hole of the Masters golf tournament today. Playing his penalty shot from within 20 yards of the green, the pro hit that shot into the water, too. He then bounced, chili-dipped and fat-blooped three more balls into the damned crick. On the tenny-tiny par-3 hole of 145 yards, the world famous golfer made a 13. He shot 85 for the day.
Before Weiskopf finished at the 12th, the fish in Rae's Creek surrendered. They were in their bomb shelters. Occasionally a bass would peek out, ducking back quickly to report, "Here comes another one."
The Weiskopf hailstorm of Titlist 1 missiles caught the fish unaware. While they keep lookouts in tree towers whenever an amateur from Dubuques tees it up, they have grown complacent at the sight of Weiskopf. He is a veteran, 37, a pro 16 years, a British Open champion who has finished second here four times and has a Masters stroke average second only to Jack Nicklaus. Only once in 48 rounds here had Weiskopf hit a ball into the creek, and that was only a single ball, not the multiple warhead of today.
"But the price of freedom," a carp said ruefully at the surrender ceremony, "is eternal vigilance. We should never have forgotten Ray Ainsley."
Ray Ainsley, in the 1938 U.S. Open, laid siege to a stream in front of the 16th green at Cherry Hills in Denver. His ball was in the running water, rolling downstream, rolling even as he whacked at it in an attempt to raise it from the depths. Lizzy Borden needed 41 whacks to do her work, but Ray Ainsley used up only 19, which yet was good enough for an Open record that stands today.
As Ainsley surfaced from his undersea demolition, a small girl in the gallery that day is said to have turned to her mother in relief.
"Momma," the girl said, "the thing must be dead now because the man has stopped hitting at it."
Weiskopf started hitting at it with a seven-iron today, that being the stick required (he thought) to move the shot through a swirling wind to pin in the left corner of the 12th green.
He didn't hit it hard enough. The ball fell short of the green. There it hit an incline that runs down to Rae's Creek. With the backspin applied by the seven-iron, the ball scurried down that incline and plopped into the creek. t
Weiskopf dropped another ball in an area marked by tournament officials for that purpose. He said there was so little grass in the drop area that his ball settled into a hole. With that resulting bad lie, Weiskopf dumped that ball into the water.
To those thousands of sadists who sit in bleachers behing the 12th tee praying to the Marquis de Sade for proper amusement, what happened next was too good to be true. Like a mechanical wind-up doll, Weiskopf did this act three times: drop a ball, hit it in the water, get a ball from the caddy, drop it . . .
The gallery was giggling. Galleries at the Masters are the aristrocrats of sports customers. They don't run, they don't boo, they don't litter. But these people were giggling in the face of Weiskopf's tradegy, to say nothing of the poor fish.
Weiskopf paid them no notice. He is called Terrible Tom because for a decade he has behaved terribly, sometimes walking off the course if he doesn't like the way things are going. He has cursed officials and newspapermen. He currently is telling Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea that the PGA commissioner, Deanse Beman, is a hopeless dud.
And what did Terrible Tom do when he made his fish-killing 13 and heard thousands of people giggling about it? What did this British Open champion do when those sadists serenaded him with mocking applause as his sixth shot found dry land?
Nothing. He just walked on to the green, putted out and went to the 13th hole where, on his second shot, he struck a three-wood into the other end of Rae's Creek. Some days you can't make a nickel.
Done with his 85 that left him 19 shots behind the leaders, Weiskopf repaired to the clubhouse. Ray Ainsley on his day came in with his clothes splattered with dirt, mud and sand. Asked what happened, Ainsley said, "Oh, nothing." In his moment of catastrophe, Weiskopf was tart for a bit -- just the way us hackers are when we ascend into double figures -- but soon he was at ease, philosophical and even charming.
Had he ever made a 13 before? "When I was 14."
How'd he feel right now?"It's extremely embarassing and disappointing, but I'll be there to tee off tomorrow."
Grim here. What did he think of the gallery's behavior? "There must have been a lot of English blood out there. That's what they call "sympathy applause.'" He full well knew the applause was born of meanness.
Lightening up now. You're very composed, Tom. "If you think I'm composed right now . . ." At the 12th, he implied with a nice smile, he had cause to throw himself in there with the fishes.
After the deca-bogey at the 12th and a plain ol' bogey at the 13th, Weiskopf said he went to the 14th tee with several thoughts. "I thought, 'I won't play tomorrow.' But then I thought, 'That won't do any good.' I thought, 'I'm just trying not to shoot too high up in the '80s.'"
Weiskopf birdied that 14th hole and played the last three in even par for his 85. This is how much Weiskopf's 10 shots over par on one hole means: the 60 leading men in the tournament are a combined 10 over par.
Even at the 12th hole, it was plain Weiskopf wasn't going to go down easy. Someone asked him later why he just didn't hit the fool ball harder and send it far over the creek, over the green and safe against a bank behind the green.
"I wasn't going to hit it into the bank," Weiskopf said firmly, and then told about seeing Ben Hogan once whip three shots into a gorge in Houston, each shot identical to the previous, each flying down there with rattle-snakes. e"Hogan was going to do it until he did it right.
"When you screw up like I was doing, you just stand there until you do it right . . . The time my ball was dropped in a hole, if I'd dropped it a second time and got a good lie, I might have made -- what -- an 8. Well, an 8 puts me eight over par for the day. At that pont, it really doesn't make a helluva lot of difference, does it?"
So Weiskopf kept filling up Rae's Creek, content in the knowledge that he could send to the pro shop for more balls. He thinks he had never made more than an 8 as a pro, and he confessed he would now remember his biggest number. He figures people will help him remember, too.
He collects pictures from golf tournaments he plays. He sends most of the trophies back with a nice no-thanks letter, the wife has too much to do to dust trophies. But he likes pictures "of shots -- good shots and bad shots," Weiskopf said.
"Do you," someone asked, "want pictures from today?"
Terrible Tom was beatific by now. "Why not?" he said gently. "I know I'll get some." The 13-shooter who heard giggles smiled and said, "Someone will send them to me and say, 'Please autograph this.'"