All the extremes of the marvelously variegated realm of golf were represented on the logjammed leader board at the Masters today.
There, all within two shots of the top, were:
* Suave millionaire gambler Raymond Floyd and his majesty Arnold Palmer. Asked if he had a realistic chance to win his fifth green coat, the 53-year-old Palmer, looking mischievous and mock fierce, said, "Damn right."
* Recent past champions Craig Stadler and Seve Ballesteros, both of whom has six birdies today and look ready to wash the scoreboard with red numbers.
* Straight-arrow opthalmologist Gil Morgan and sassy rail-thin Jack Renner, who gets indigestion when he thinks about Augusta National and the self-appointed bluebloods who administer it.
* Long-hitting mystery men approaching middle age named Charlie Coody and J. C. Snead, who came out of the woodwork for one more day of glory.
* Charming star-struck amateur Jim Hallet, a former small-college hockey goalie, who is living in the Crow's Nest here, walks the course at night for inspiration and plays with a ball that has a Boston Bruns emblem on it.
Here come the scores.
On a wet, windless day that made the Augusta National play at its absolute easiest, Floyd, Morgan and Renner tied for the lead at five-under-par 67. Just behind them at 68 was a glamorous, but somewhat goofy quintet: Palmer, Ballesteros, Coody, Snead and Hallet. At 69 were Stadler and Bruce Lietzke.
In a sense, this first round was indeterminate.No one took advantage of the juicy conditions to "shoot zero," as the pros say. On the other hand, almost every big name stayed in contention. Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Calvin Peete were at 70; Greg Norman, David Graham and Lee Trevino had 71s as 28 players broke par and 13 more equaled it. In all, half the field of 82 shot par or better.
Those kicking themselves for not taking advantage of a day when the par-5 13th and 15th holes were really just par 4s were Johnny Miller (72), Jack Nicklaus (73), Lanny Wadkins (73), Hal Sutton (73) and Bobby Clampett (74). A few players bungled their way to the fringe of contention: Tom Weiskopf (75), Andy Bean (76), Ben Crenshaw (76), Geroge Burns (77) and Curtis Strange (77).
A sad note was provided by Sam Snead, 70, who made what he announced as his last Masters appearance. He shot a 79 and said that was the end of it.
I'm getting down the road," he said. "I'd have to shoot 68 tomorrow to make the cut (to qualify for the final two rounds of play) and I couldn't do that if they let me play only 15 holes."
Despite Snead's sadness, there was glee in the voices of the quality front runners after their rounds.
"Tickled to death," said Floyd, the fellow who lives in a $20-million home on Key Biscayne and will play you for any amount of cash any time you say. Tempo Raymondo birdied four of the last eight holes, including the 18th.
"The course has never played earier," attested Watson.
"My confidence in my putting is growing," said Stadler, which would seem logical since he birdied four holes in a row and five of the final seven.
"This course suits me," understated Ballesteros, who, as usual, played the part 5s three under par.
Perhaps the more interesting acts and voices on this muggy day were those of the interlopers and the dreamers.
For instance, Renner, who's always made sniping comments about how unfair Augusta National is to anybody except a huge hitter, went eagle-birdie-eagle on the 13th-14th-15th, sinking putts of 45, 8 and 30 feet.
For the first time, the 26-year-old Renner could reach the par 5s here. "I'm still growin" up. Getting stronger every year . . . If I gain 10 more yards, I'm going to be singing its (Augusta's) praises.
"I'll put this in the bank for life. Now I know I can shoot 67 here," said Renner, who never had broken 70 here before, but played the last six holes six under par for a 31 on the back. "I'm not concerned in the least about winning."
A first-round Masters tradition is the appearance of a young amateur and an old pro -- each with next to no chance of winning -- who stir everyone's fancy with thoughts of storybook stuff. This day, Hallet and Palmer filled the bill.
Hallet, 23, from South Yarmouth, Mass., on Cape Cod, when to Division II Bryant College on a hockey scholarship. Golf was just his hobby. However, after one season, Bryant killed its men's hockey program, thanks in part to the economic pinch of Title IX.
Hallet hardly complained; he'd allowed 5.7 goals a game. "The other teams were averaging about 65 shots on a goal a game. I was seein" a lot of rubber," said Hallet, who "got out of the game with all my teeth and no broken bones. Just got knocked on my can a lot."
Hallet, quite correctly, calls his golf career "an overnight success." He earned one of the Masters invitations by reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur. Fearing that he'd embarrass himself totally, Hallet spent a chunk of the winter in Florida working on his game, then arrived here as early as allowed, getting in 11 -- yes, 11 -- practice rounds.
Sleeping in the tiny cupola of the clubhouse ("Love it") and walking the course at all hours ("Late at night it's awful peaceful"), Hallet has gotten in a Masters trance. Last week, he didn't even remember that it was his birthday until after sundown. When Hallet sank a 40-foot putt for eagle at the 15th, he insured himself a souvenir for a lifetime: two crystal goblets.
"Mr. Goalby," said Hallet, referring to partner Bob Goalby, "told me that Sam Snead has 96 pieces of crystal, just from this tournament."
Mr. Palmer also has quite a few pieces of crystal, but it's another green jacket that he'd really like. Palmer, who claims he's suddenly hitting his drives as far as he did in his prime ("going past the young guys"), hit every green in regulation on the front and shot 34, the best start of the day. After a bogey at the 10th, he made three straight gritty saves of par. That got him going. Palmer birdied 14, 15 and 16 with putts of 20, 5 and 3 feet. After a 40-minute rain delay, he parred the final two holes before a huge gallery.
Palmer revealed that he'd taken a tip from Tom Watson and made a drastic swing change this week (opening his right hip as the first move of his takeaway). Asked how he could do such a thing on the eve of the Masters, Palmer said, "What the hell. Nothing from nothing is nothing. I haven't (even) made the cut here the last two years."
Did he dare dream of victory? "Well, at L.A. (where he led with only nine holes to play), I got nervous and choked. I couldn't talk," Palmer said laughing.
If he came to the final nine here in such a position, Arnold Palmer would have the whole golfing world doing deep-breathing exercises if it would help. In some armies, it's never too late to re-enlist.