THE PLAYERS 1977: Mark Hayes
As a card-carrying member of the famed “Oak Tree Gang,” Mark Hayes knew he could handle a robust blast of wind.
But what Mother Nature provided for big stretches of THE PLAYERS Championship at Sawgrass Country Club in 1977 brought to mind what Hayes’ Oak Tree CC pal, Bob Tway, once said about “fun” rounds at their course in Edmond, Okla.: “When the wind starts blowing (fiercely), we go inside and drink iced tea.”
Ah, but the best field in golf didn’t have that luxury as the March weather presented a demanding challenge in the first of five straight years at the seaside Sawgrass CC. Fortunately, Hayes’ Oklahoma roots had provided valuable experience against sturdy winds, so as others struggled, he maintained composure.
Six behind after the first day, the then 27-year-old Hayes, a two-time winner in 1976, shot a second-round 74 in 40 mph winds. Weekend scores of 71-72 left Hayes at 1-over 289, the only over-par score that won a PGA TOUR tournament that season.
Not that wind was Hayes’ only challenge, because the game’s best were in the hunt. Jack Nicklaus was within striking distance until he three-putted the 14th and Tom Watson had visions of winning before taking 41 strokes on his final nine holes.
Both Nicklaus and Watson finished tied for fifth, four back, as Mike McCullough eventually was second, two behind Hayes, who recorded the last of his three PGA TOUR wins.