The guy threatening to play naked, by United States Golf Association standards, decided not to; the player shorter than a gimmie putt sank that 25-footer he needed to break 85; George Burns took a Bo Derek on the 18th hole. Missed a six-footer for 9. All in all, historically, a rather routine first day for the U.S. Open.
Sadly, Burns' problems were just slightly above par for his recent Opens. There was the televised fuss with a USGA official at Merion in 1980. He shot 80 the final round at Pebble Beach last year when even par would have tied him for third place. He fled the course after today's round-ending 10, disqualifying himself by not signing his scorecard.
"But it was honestly done," playing partner Andy Bean insisted. "If he hadn't tried, he'd have made 12."
How does the very good pro who shot eight under for one round at Congressional two weeks ago blow to six over one hole? Simple. He starts by knocking his tee ball out of bounds on the 456-yarder. So he's lying 3 when his next drive dives into a fairway bunker.
The ball catches the lip of that trap and visits more sand not too much closer to the hole. His fifth shot also tips the lip of that deep trap and scoots into the deep rough. With his sixth blow, Burns finally is in the short grass.
"He really didn't show it, though," Bean said.
The seventh shot, a long pitch, sailed over the green. Then Burns hit what Bean called "a helluva chip to get close." A missed six-footer and a tap-in later, Burns was tapped out. And quickly gone.
This being the Open, a 10 was not the worst hole by much today. An obscure pro from Chicago pretty much shot himself out of the tournament before he stepped on the first green. In the fringe several yards from the cup on that par-4 hole, Don Klenk already had struck the ball six times. He putted from there, and and then twice more.
Shot 17 over for the round.
A wonderful 88, he figured.
"It beats the 63 I once shot," he said, "because there wasn't any rough on that course."
It isn't true that the rough was taller than the fellow playing one group behind Klenk. But 5-foot-2 (with eyes of blue) Eddie Kilthau stands not much taller than his clubs. And, relatively speaking, does not hit the ball much beyond his shadow.
"When I got to be as tall as I am now my junior year in high school and stopped," he said, "I knew that was all she wrote. But I've never been discouraged."
He inspires banter all over the course. Like Tom Weiskopf using him to mark his ball; like his being allowed to carry 15 clubs in his bag, the extra one being a billy club to ward off monster squirrels. He also is a plucky fellow easy to root for.
"I can make it," the assistant pro from a club near Phoenix vows. "I compensate for lack of distance by being straight. But a couple of feet off the fairway here and I'm done. The stronger guys can handle it; I can't advance it toward the green very far. And when I'm in the big stuff, I just chip it to the fairway."
It was big stuff early this morning when Forrest (Fuzzy) Fezler arrived at Oakmont Country Club. Would he or wouldn't he--wear Bermuda shorts? Folks, this is close to calamity for the USGA.
Fezler is the free-spirited Californian who has challenged the stuffed shirts of golf in other sociological matters. In the mid-'70s, when the PGA was strong-arming little-known pros to shave off their beards, the fellow who had finished second in a U.S. and Canadian Open and won nearly $200,000 combined in '73 and '74 declared martial law.
What he did was stride right onto the tour with a slightly flowing, neatly groomed, reddish beard. And dared anyone to make him grab a razor.
"I was told television wouldn't show me during the Bob Hope," Fezler said. "Next week at the L.A. Open, when I finished third, they had to. After that, (Craig) Stadler showed up with a beard."
After that, it didn't much matter what a man wore. As long as it looked as though he was out to shoot par and not grizzlies.
This week, because it's hot here and nobody has noticed him much lately, Fezler figured playing the Open in shorts would be neat. The USGA thought not. Men have played the Open in coat and tie, in knickers and the tackiest combinations of polyester. Shorts are taboo.
"Who doesn't wear 'em?" he asked. All of us public-course hackers, and much of the country club set. The USGA even tolerated his shorts during qualifying at Bethesda, and the course was not ravaged by locusts. When Fezler started playing a practice round here Saturday and saw the USGA's P.J. Boatwright cruising nearby, he figured it was not to ask his opinion on poa annua.
A truce was struck. Fezler agreed to wear his go-to-church trousers when play officially began today if the USGA let him practice in comfort. Then Jack Nicklaus and some others apparently enouraged him to push the matter. Nicklaus said he wore shorts several times early in his career, during tournaments in South Africa and Hawaii.
Thinking back to his plump period, that might have been the reason for the ban. Even Golden Bears look dreadful in shorts. Fezler chose to keep his word today. But stay tuned, there might be a leg breakthrough on tour by Quad Cities.
By nightfall here, incidents on and off the course had added to the already lively U.S. Open lore. The latest was Scott Simpson acing the 16th hole. That assured a monumental straight, scores of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 being recorded. Possibly, that has happened before. Possibly not.