The U.S. Open record of 275 is in jeopardy, since either Jack Nicklaus or Tom Weiskopf, who each had 63 today, would have only to play the final three rounds in one over par to total 274.
The golf magazine that offers a $50,000 prize to anyone who breaks either the 18-hole or 72-hole record here may be safe, however, if sun and wind bake the course, and USGA officials are in a mood for revenge.
"Baltusrol will get in its licks by Sunday," predicted Nicklaus.
Could USGA brass deploy deceitful pin placements after today's underpar carnage? "Tomorrow," said Nicklaus, "we won't be able to find 15 of the flags."
Baltusrol will never be more accessible than it was this day, thanks to soft fairways which kept errant drives from bounding into the high-raked rough, soft greens that held iron shots like a dart board, medium-speed greens that were perfect speed for a hot putter, and fairways so perfect that (in Watson's words) "every lie was so close and neat that you never doubted the distance the shot would fly. You could be perfectly confident that you had the right club in your hand."
Two contending player with new clubs in their hands were Ray Floyd (67) and Lee Trevino, Floyd has been playing with a balky driver for five weeks while Trevino was traumatized by his erratic putter. Both found 11th-hour solutions.
In May, Floyd snapped the shaft in his drive -- one he had been using for 15 years since Arnold Palmer gave it to him. This week, he finally found a replacement shaft that felt identical.
"You can't beat the 155 best players in the world using a three-wood off the tee," said Floyd. "This new-driver has a top-end distance of 300 yards for me. I haven't hit it so long and straight in years."
Floyd's round might have approached the leading 63s if, when he was four under par at the 12th green he had not missed a 10-inch par putt. Floyd never regained his enthusiasm after that.
Trevino's turnaround was even more dramatic. On Wednesday, he was in one of his periods of despair over his putting. But, that evening, some new electronic gizmo informed him that his putter head was too hooded. Trevino took a hammer, put the putter on the porch steps of his rented house, and bashed it until the machine said he had it right.
"I'm a puttin' Jesse now," Trevino beamed after his 68. "I'm hitting everything dead center."
Perhaps the accidental low blow of the day was Fuzzy Zoeller telling Weiskopf at the 18th tee that he was close to the Open record and $50,000 bonus.
"I hadn't thought of that," Weiskopf said to Zoeller, then backed off his drive twice (the second time as a baby carriage with squeaky wheels went by) and finally blocked it dead right into trees. Even so, Weiskopf had a 60-yard wedge to the 18th that might have set up a markeable birdie putt for 62. He chunked the little shot into a trap.