He was 65 holes into a tournament that was rightfully his. Now, on rugged hole No. 12 Raymond Floyd's cool seemed ready to become his collapse.
His record 10-under-par was down to seven under; his five-shot lead was down to two. Four holes ahead, Fred Couples was eagling to five under. Lanny Wadkins was about to join him.
Instead of front-running, Floyd was jogging backward. He actually seeemed ready to default this 64th PGA Championship. "Then, I had a little talk with myself on the 12th tee," Floyd said later. "I've had hundreds of talks with myself. But this one worked. I was revved up."
Floyd proceeded to tee off with a great three-wood shot, then drop a six-iron shot within five feet of the 12th hole. The ball hit the green of this fabled 444-yard par-4 and didn't move. It probably was in pulverized pain when Floyd dropped in a birdie to move to eight under, then birdied Nos. 15 and 16.
Once again, he was Cool Ray. In command. In control. In time.
And so Floyd won this 64th PGA Championship, after all. He won it by three strokes over Wadkins with a 72-hole total of 272, eight under par at the Southern Hills Country Club.
Even a double-bogey 18th couldn't keep Floyd from shining a $65,000 smile to all these country clubbers. It did keep him from breaking or tying the tournament record of 271 set by Bobby Nichols in 1964 at the Columbus Country Club.
Wadkins (67-275) won $45,000 for his second-place finish.
Couples (66-276) and Calvin Peete (79-276) take home a third-place $27,500 each for their four-under-par tie. And Floyd takes home pride in winning his third major in which he led from start to finish. He monopolized the 1969 PGA and the 1976 Masters, too.
On an afternoon that was humid, but humane, Floyd was out of control today. He missed eight greens and six fairways, more than in any other round. He had four bogeys (Nos. 3, 5, 9, 10), four birdies (Nos. 8, 12, 15, 16) and the double bogey on 18.
It was not grandiose goodness. But it was good enough.
So even Cool Ray had to admit today, "At the start I was struggling. I made some bonehead shot selections. I made some bad mental errors. And when you do that you think, 'You know better than that.' I did, too. I guess it was the pressure. I just didn't handle it well."
The challengers were watching the champion throughout, keeping leader-board tabs as the man who had paralyzed par for three rounds had his lead go on the critical list of uncertainty. These contenders were hopeful, not expectant. They know Floyd's front-running tendencies.
Said Wadkins, the 1977 PGA winner, "If he bogeys 12, it's a whole new tournament. But I didn't expect it. When you have heart like Raymond, it makes you want it that much more."
Said Peete, "At 12, I thought there was a chance. I figured if I could go in the clubhouse five or six under . . . unfortunately it didn't happen. I'd rather be chasing anybody but Raymond."
Said Couples, 22, the second-year PGA tourist from California who burglarized the back nine at 32 today (he broke the course record Thursday with a 29): "I was just thinking about the Masters."
The Masters? "Yeah, the top eight finishers here qualify for the Masters. I was not thinking about Floyd," said Couples, who ate only a banana before today's round. ("I get nervous. I figured the banana would be enough," he said.)
Meanwhile, Craig Norman (72-277) and Jay Haas (72-277) lost hold of their second-place tie created in round three. Playing with Floyd, they finished in a fifth-place threesome with Jim Simons (69) at three under par.
Tom Watson actually crawled onto the leader board. His 68 placed him at even par 280 for the tournament. It produced a ninth-place tie with Jerry Pate, Tom Kite and Lon Hinkle.
Watson did not tie Ben Hogan's 1953 record by winning his third major in the same year. "I'm looking forward to the next tournament," was Watson's PGA postscript.
Jack Nicklaus finished with a 67 today, three over at 283 overall, and closed with this comment, "I'm not going to play anymore until I start hitting the ball better. I'm tired and going home."
While there was charm in the interview room with Floyd, there was harm in the locker room for the men who followed behind him. Pate, tied for ninth, was icing down his still-ailing left shoulder, and bemoaning his PGA placing, saying, "What I should be doing is putting a tourniquet around my neck."
There was Nick Faldo, the once-contender who slipped to 14th (72-282), bemoaning a cold and the penicillin he takes for it, saying, "I'm just all bunked up."
There was Seve Ballesteros, the 1980 Masters winner who finished 12th here (73-281), bemoaning the Tulsa heat and humidity, saying, "For me, it was much more than I could take. In time, I will be all right."
And, of course, there was 39-year-old Raymond Floyd. With his 18th career tournament victory in the bag, his name claiming $305,409 in 1982 earnings and three 1982 titles, he admitted he could have been Fool Ray today, saying, "If I had blown this I don't know if I could ever live it down."