Arnold Palmer looked at the three-tiered birthday cake, covering about an acre, and said, "They couldn't get a cake big enough to put all those candles on, eh?"

On Sam Snead's 70th birthday, he cut the cake near the first tee at the Memorial tournament and said, "Oh, this is wonderful. I hope you boys make it this far."

He handed Palmer and Gary Player football-sized hunks of the cake. "Gary, Arnie, have some cake."

Then, laughing, Snead said, "I'm playing. So I won't have as big a piece."

Carl Hubbell was a kid when Snead was. Bronko Nagurski was running over people when Snead won his first tournament. The year Hank Luisetti invented the jump shot, Snead lost a U.S. Open, FDR was elected the first time, houses cost $4,000 with 3 percent mortgages, and nobody ever heard of Liz Taylor. We're talking the Pleistocene Age.

We're also talking today. For today Samuel Jackson Snead teed it up with the young'uns on the big-league PGA Tour. What he shot (81) wasn't as important as that a golfing Mount Rushmore came to life.

At 9 a.m., this pairing: Sam Snead along with Arnold Palmer, 52, and Gary Player, 46, playing together for the first time. Combine them and we have a 168-year-old pro who in 95 years on tour has won 166 tournaments, including 23 majors, and nearly $4.5 million in official prize money.

Snead's great contemporaries of the '40s have retired. Byron Nelson has arthritis and plays maybe once a month. Ben Hogan plays with friends, but won't limp in public on his bad legs and is too proud to risk freezing over a putt. The way Hogan strikes the ball even today, friends say he could play the tour if he made an accommodation with the devil putter as Snead has.

Snead putts sidesaddle, facing the hole, bent down, swinging the putter with his right hand six inches up the shaft while the left holds the grip end. Hogan would sooner burn down an orphanage than be caught performing such an unnatural act. For Snead, pride runneth a distant second to having fun and for him, at 70, it's fun to shoot 81 ("It wasn't the first and it won't be the last") and then hear Gary Player in the locker room.

"If there's ever been a man with a better golf swing than this man," said Player, who once called Snead the greatest athlete in the history of the world, "then I'd have to see him before I'd believe it . . . This man is a genius. It is sad that a man like this has to get old."

Snead said, "Like the fella says. Ever'body wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die."

"It's amazing the man hits the ball like he does," said Palmer, whose earliest golfing memories include the realization at age 9 that Slammin' Sammy Snead made a late 8 to lose the 1939 U.S. Open. Palmer first played with Snead in a playoff for the 1956 Panama Open title, when the young Palmer, 27 and charging, beat the legendary old-timer, then 45, on a chip-in at the sixth extra hole.

Will Palmer be playing at 70?

"I just hope I'm alive," he said.

It's been 17 years since Snead won on tour, three years since he won a dime with the kids, but he and Don January teamed up to win $100,000 in the Legends of Golf best-ball tournament for old guys last month (Snead made 14 of the 27 birdies). Still good around the greens, adequate putting, he has lost maybe 40 yards off his driver and an occasional collapse of a weak left leg leads to a pull hook so ugly Hogan would weep at the sight.

Snead forgets these homely hooks.

"A terrible swing on that hole," he said of his drive on 17, which ran into woods. By then, unlike Roger Maltbie, who led the Memorial tournament with 68 in the first round, the hills of Muirfield Village had worn Snead out. He was dragging. He also, after that hook, was steaming. As he walked to his ball in the woods, he slammed his driver down into his bag. Only, he missed and the club boinged off the turf.

"Here it is," a helpful marshal said to the legend.

"You get outta here," the legend replied.

In the woods, Snead picked up a big branch and tossed it aside.

His caddy shouted, "Sam, that's a hazard."

It's a two-shot penalty to move anything in a hazard as defined by red stakes and a red line only two feet from Snead's ball.

With the two-shot penalty--"You don't see red too good," Snead said later--he made a quadruple-bogey 8 at 17.

Afterward, he intended to pack up and leave town. To qualify for the final 36 holes, he likely would have to shoot under 70.

Someone reminded Snead, "Sam, everybody that finishes 36 holes gets $2,000 regardless."

"Maybe," said this West Virginia hillbilly who may have his first dollar buried in a tomato can back home, "I better play tomorrow. My plane isn't until the afternoon."

Thirty minutes later, Sam Snead, 70, was over with the kids hitting practice balls. "I'll do better tomorrow," he said. PHOTO(AP):Sam Snead, after carding an 81, "I'll do better tomorrow. boinged off the turf.

"Here it is," a helpful marshal said to the legend.

"You get outta here," the legend replied.

In the woods, Snead picked up a big branch and tossed it aside.

His caddy shouted, "Sam, that's a hazard."

It's a two-shot penalty to move anything in a hazard as defined by red stakes and a red line only two feet from Snead's ball.

With the two-shot penalty--"You don't see red too good," Snead said later--he made a quadruple-bogey 8 at 17.

Afterward, he intended to pack up and leave town. To qualify for the final 36 holes, he likely would have to shoot under 70.

Someone reminded Snead, "Sam, everybody that finishes 36 holes gets $2,000 regardless."

"Maybe," said this West Virginia hillbilly who may have his first dollar buried in a tomato can back home, "I better play tomorrow. My plane isn't until the afternoon."

Thirty minutes later, Sam Snead, 70, was over with the kids hitting practice balls. "I'll do better tomorrow," he said.