"One thing I know about the final nine holes of the U.S. Open," Floyd would say later, "is that everybody starts making bogeys." And, one by one, eight of the nine fell flat:
Norman. He bogeyed No. 9 one minute after the nine-way rush and was never heard from again. He shot 75 and finished 12th. Health tip: If you happen to see him, don't bring it up.
Stewart, GQ's finest. By birdieing 11 and 12, he took a one-shot lead, but then missed a three-footer for par at 13 and bogeyed 14. He disappeared into the bubbling vat of ex-leaders and finished tied for sixth.
Beck. This new pupil of teaching pro extraordinaire L.B. Floyd, Raymond's father, made four straight birdies coming in on his way to a course-record 65 but missed a three-foot birdie putt on 18. As it was, he finished two shots back and tied for second.
Wadkins. Another run made too late. His 65 tied Beck at two back for second place.
Sutton. Mending from another divorce, the man the caddies call "Halimony" was after some collateral and took a share of the lead by birdieing the arduous 447-yard uphill par-4 9th. But Sutton bogeyed 12 and then 15 and finished tied for fourth. Will $26,269 do?
Crenshaw. By bogeying 12 he fell from grace and never returned, an unhappy ending to a meteoric start in which he birdied four of the first six holes. He tied for sixth, yet made more birdies than anybody in the field.
McCumber. Nursing a tender back, McCumber came to the par-5 16th two shots off the lead, tried to fly a nine-iron at the flag and instead found the bunker. He made a McCumbersome double bogey and tied for eighth.
Tway. With a birdie at 14, he became the last of the ninesome with a chance to catch Floyd, but 16 brought twouble. Playing the hole without benefit of fairway, he didn't reach the green until his fourth shot, then three-putted. He tied for eighth, but still emerged as a tour rarity -- a player of immense talent and composure at only 27. "Hey, if you're looking for a dad-burn superstar, look at this kid," said Tway's playing partner, Trevino. "He was so good today, I wanted to caddie for him."
All of which left Raymond Loran Floyd, who, beginning with a 20-foot par putt at 12, played flawlessly the rest of the way. He hit every fairway and every green but one from there on (14 in all), made simple birdie putts -- 4 feet at 13, 10 feet at 16 -- and, more important, never flinched, never blinked, never stepped one spike's worth off line. After 156 players and 72 holes, only one man had played Shinnecock Hills under par, Floyd: 75-68-70-66, for a 279. Whether the man is 23 or 43, Raymond Floyd cannot be folded, stapled or mutilated.
"I know I'm in a young man's game," Floyd said. "I don't consider myself old. I'm old, but I don't feel old. I can play with the young guys."
That he has proved. He has now won 20 tournaments, four majors, and lacks only the British Open for a career slam. And he may just be warming up. "What Jack did at the Masters was one of the most thrilling things I've ever seen," he said. "And I hope my winning the Open will help people recognize us. Hey, we've been around.... I was rookie of the year in 1963 and now, 23 years later, I've won again."
And how long can Floyd go on winning? 2001? His caddie, Seymour Johnson, has it figured: "Ray's the type of player, he don't know when he's past his prime."
Until he learns, until he and Trevino and Nicklaus and the rest of the Dorian Gray foursomes get it through their thick, graying skulls that they're supposed to be rocking on a porch somewhere knitting head covers. Until then we are stuck with nothing to do but sit back and marvel at their miracles, ponder the youthful powers of places like Augusta and Shinnecock and wonder if perhaps Jay Gatsby, another guy who made a splash on Long Island, didn't know more about golf than he let on....
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.