John Brodie walked around the first tee of the Merion Golf Club this morning with a big smile. He signed a couple of autographs, waved to friends, shook hands with everyone in sight and made small talk with playing partners Forrest Fezler and John Schroeder.
Then the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers stepped up to hit his first shot in U.S. Open competition. "I didn't feel all that nervous," he said. "I felt good. I was talking easily. I didn't feel tight at all. My swing told me I was a lot more nervous than I thought."
Brodie's snap swing produced what might be expected -- a hook that flew way left of the bunkers and way left of the rough, landing in the general vicinity of Veterans Stadium, which is on the other side of Philadelphia.
That set a pattern. Brodie was seven over par after eight holes and ended with a 10-over-par 80.
"I don't feel that bad, alghough I wish I'd have hit it a little less crooked," he said, sipping a beer in the locker room. "I didn't expect to play too well on this course because it's very tough.
"But I can hit it better than that. I saw everything today. I spent practically the whole day searching for my golf ball. The people were good, very friendly. I wish I had given them something more to cheer about."
Brodie, 45, has been a serious golfer for years, even turning pro briefly after he retired from football eight years ago. In his third try for the Open, he shot 70-68 in local qualifying and 76-69 in the sectional to make the tournament field.
"I shot 283 for those 72 holes," he said. "At this rate, I could put that many up in 54. But I don't suspect I'll be around that long."
Jack Nicklaus thinks the U.S. Golf Association's system of having youngsters (instead of caddies) rake sand traps, a move designed to speed up play, isn't such a good idea.
Nicklaus was less than thrilled after his second shot at 15 landed in a poorly raked section of the trap. He stood looking disgustedly at the spot for a moment, pointing to it and muttering, "Some rake job, huh?" to playing partner Hale Irwin.
He left the ball in the bunker on his first shot at getting out, then knocked the ball within six inches and made bogey.
"If you don't rake traps right, you're going to create some awkward lies before the day is over," he said.
Nicklaus was asked if he wanted to see the Open played at his course, Muirfield Village. "No," he said, "we've got our own tournament (the Memorial) there. That's enough."
Arnold Palmer gave his legions a brief thrill, making birdie on two of the first three holes before finishing at 77.Gary Player had a 72. The high score for the day was 86, shot by one-time tour regular Terry Dill.