If P. G. Wodehouse had written the script, the second round of the British Open could not have been more hilarious or more perfectly English than it was today.
Nick Job and Gordon Brand, two characters worthy of the man who wrote "The Clicking of Cuthbert" and other golf tales of divine madness, turned Royal St. George's into a sort of musical comedy this afternoon.
"It's all a total shock to me," said Job, the first-rounder coleader who shot 69 today for a 139 total that put him second, one shot off the lead.
"The pressure's getting to be hell," deadpanned the strapping 32-year-old redhead with the Byronic profile and quiet, wry voice. "It's embarrassing to come to every green and have to say, 'Thank you, Thank you,' and give than jaunty salute to the crowd.
"I just can't master it," said Job with a sigh, adding, "and Nicklaus does it so well . . ."
It would be hard to imagine a more improbable center-stage actor than Odd Job, a player with such a history of bad nerves under pressure that he has gone to Spain to get "heart-slow-downers . . . You can get any kind of pill in Spain."
However, at sundown, an equally bizarre personage -- Brand, a former suasage factory can-top screwer -- set a course record with a 65 that included a nationally televised hole in one at the 165-yard 16th.
Brand revealed that, as a youth, his ambition had been to play cornet for the Hammond Sausage Factory band in Yorkshire and that he had worked his way up to third cornet. However, the turning point of his young career came when the band tried to pressure him into playing the bassoon and Brand refused, quitting the band rather than "spoil my lip."
Thereafter, Brand concentrated on golf, although he did spend two winters working at the factory "screwing on tops . . . They always gave me the tough jobs."
Job, the son of a Kent golf pro, and Brand seemed to epitomize a sort of British character that is compulsively self-depreciating, always anticipating disaster, but in a charmingly amusing way. During this time of economic woes, some folk on this island term that cast of mind "the British disease."
"The English are not the most positive people. Say, 'Have a nice day,' to us and we'll look at you like you're balmy," said Job.
"However," added Job, taking himself as a case in point, "after 13 years of not winning, you do get rather negative."
Job's postround answers to questions were even more amazing than his golf.
"The odds on you were 300 to 1 before the tournament. What should they be now?"
"Four hundred to one," retorted the winner of about $34,000 on the European tour last season and $11,000 so far this year.
"Why did you bogey three of the last five holes when you might easily have been leading the entire tournament?"
"The swing was getting a bit hunched, a bit jerky, a bit nervy . . . "
Why the sudden improvement in his game?
"I found out recently that for the last 15 years I've had a bad swing. It was quite a shock to my system. I've changed everything . . . New swing entirely."
All these things seemingly are said not as wisecracks, but as the labored utterances, of a patient and long-suffering Job. Imagine a handsome, fey, exhausted, elegant Peter O'Toole who happens to be near the top of the British Open leader board and doesn't know quite what to make of it.
What will Job do about his famously bad nerves?
"If I could be frozen for the night and then put on the tee and defrosted at 3:15 (his starting time) tomorrow, there'd be no problem," he said.
"I once found these pills in Spain. And they slowed your heart down. They were for anemia, I think, but I tried them for golf. I stopped taking them when people called me "the pill-popper pro.'
"I'm considering sleeping pills the next two nights. But smoking dope might be good."
How did Job sleep the previous night?
"All right," he said, "until I woke up."
Had he, perhaps, tried a particular book on positive thinking that is popular among golfers?
"That's all very well," said Job. "But I've heard that the fellow who wrote it committed suicide."
What would it mean for an Englishman to win the Open?
"Be bigger than the wedding," said Job, who, last winter, played the bush league minitour in San Diego for experience -- but lost money. "It won't change me if I win. I'll still be the same nice person."
What does he think of playing in one of the last prestigious twosomes on Saturday?
Job paused, pursed his mouth, and said, "I can't see how I'm going to get out of it."
On a more serious note (and at times, Job's face was so serious that it seemed washed out from emotion) he said, "People don't know what a normal man goes through in a situation like this. It's fun and it's hell at the same time because you know it's the chance of a lifetime. I have no idea if I can cope with this kind of worry because I've never been through anythink like it.
"The stress comes because I know that if I can somehow pull myself together and play my best golf for two more days, I could win.
"Still," he said, changing mood, "it might be easier if I were American. I say, how do you do it? You seem to eat positive for breakfast and we (English) eat negative.
"How do you stand on the first tee like this?" he said, doing an imitation of Nicklaus swelling his shoulders, adjusting his glove and giving a flex of wrist to the club that speaks as elegantly as a king's gesture with a scepter.
"It's that old American thing from the Ryder Cup matches. The Americans wear Foot Joys and all the English players stand together admiring their shoes, and their slacks and their clubs. How can you beat a man if you can't even afford his shoes?"
True to the English mold, when Brand was asked about his hole in one, he said, with a tone of sincere apology, "It was a good shot, really," as though he'd had no right to do such a thing and wouldn't have if he'd given it sufficient thought.
Brand celebrated by "jumping around . . . and eating up with two cigarettes in my mouth." The cause of his form reversal from 78 to 65 was simple.
"Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary and my wife nagged me all night long for quitting."
Brand, the toast of his coutrymen, was asked how he would celebrate his ace and his course record, all on the same glorious day.
Like a true Englishman, he answered, "I think the wife and I will just stay in tonight. I can't afford a round of drinks."