Golf: After the Avalanche

"It's like jumping off the top of a building," Ken Venturi said recently, surveying the shreds of his tattered career. "There are no steps on the way down."

Once he was the hottest player in golf. Arnie Palmer was just a promising young pro when Venturi, a 24-year-old amateur, shot a final-round 80 and lost the 1956 Masters by a single stroke. Jack Nicklaus was a chubby-cheeked Ohio State freshman when Ken was winning four tournaments in 1958 and hearing himself hailed as "the new Ben Hogan." In his first four years as...

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