Yet another unknown claims a major championship
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2003 US PGA Championship | Wrap | 18 Aug 2003
The PGA Championship has often been known for producing winners from left field but leading into this week it appeared that the game’s leading players, given that they were all in such good form, would perhaps dominate this year’s event. At the end of 72 holes however, four players who were considered amongst the lesser chances at the start of the week, separated themselves from the rest of the field.
34-year-old Shaun Micheel, who in 163 starts on the USPGA Tour prior to this week, had only managed a best of third place (twice), produced the round of his life and indeed the shot of his life when under the most immense pressure and scrutiny, he fired a seven iron into the 72nd hole to finish less than a foot away and effectively won the event at that moment.
He had started round four tied with Chad Campbell with perhaps Campbell marginally the favourite of the two because of his stellar play this season and that he has had a good deal more experience in the heat of the battle than Micheel. A bogey at the very first hole for Campbell set the tone for the day however, and although he and the likes of Tim Clark and Alex Cjeka were to challenge, Micheel never gave up the lead from that point on.
When he walked off the sixth hole, Micheel was two ahead of Tim Clark and three ahead of what appeared to be a faltering Campbell. Campbell has unflappable qualities however and he was to come back, although not moving backwards on a course such as this is the same as moving forwards. When Campbell birdied the thirteenth and fifteenth holes, the difference was just one and with three difficult holes to play anything was possible. Even Cjeka and Clark were still very much in the picture as, with the amount of accidents waiting to happen over the closing holes, they were still in with a real chance.
Micheel received a couple of good breaks with his tee shots over the last three holes but took full advantage of them. His tee shot on the par four sixteenth was headed a long way right, caught some tress and dropped down into a position where he could access the green. Not only did he do that successfully but he knocked it to thirty feet and holed it for a birdie. Then at the last, when now just one ahead, his tee shot received a favourable late kick to edge into the light rough from its original destination, the heavy stuff. He took full advantage of those two breaks however and his seven iron to the last will long be remembered as one of the great shots in the game.
Campbell was valiant in defeat and given the progress he has made since joining the PGA Tour in 2002, he is destined to show up again in majors where there is a real premium on patience and accuracy.
Tim Clark’s great week to finish third and challenge for the title over the closing nine holes will likely earn him a place in Gary Player’s Presidents Cup Team. With so many of those just outside the automatic selections faring badly, there existed the opportunity for someone to produce a great performance at the right time. Clark was the man for the job and although his finish may not necessarily edge him ahead of Appleby at number ten, it would be very hard to over look his claims for a captain’s pick. Toshi Izawa, who finished eighteenth here, may be Player’s other pick as I am sure he will be keen to have a Japanese presence in the side. The President’s Cup team will be announced in the next few hours. Micheel and Campbell certainly did their chances no harm from a US team standpoint.
Alex Cejka, in just his first season on the USPGA Tour, was also very impressive in finishing alone in fourth place. Cejka’s previous best finish in a major was 11th at the 1996 British Open.
Of the pre-tournament favourites the most notable disappointment was Woods whose twelve over par total and 39th place is no doubt of some concern for the Woods camp. Els and Weir had top tens, David Love III missed the cut, Vijay Singh slipped badly on day four with a 79 for 34th, Jim Furyk played well at the weekend for 18th place and Phil Mickelson lost a chance after a great start on Thursday, with a last round 75.
Of the Australasians Rod Pampling did best in just his third major championship. He had missed the cut at his two previous showings and that he was able to recover today after two double bogeys in the middle of his round to finish 14th, highlights just how far he has come since joining the USPGA Tour.
Stuart Appleby again showed that he is one of the better performed Australians in majors in recent years with a last round 70, which included a costly double bogey at the last, to finish 23rd. Adam Scott’s last round of 75 was perhaps disappointing for the 23-year-old but it was a good week and highlighted that he will get to the next level before too long. He too finished 23rd. Geoff Ogilvy’s last round of 70 moved him forward sixteen places to finish 27th, Peter Lonard was again solid making his sixth of seven cuts in majors since joining the USPGA Tour and finishing in 29th place, Robert Allenby again showed that majors and he do not get along when finishing 39th, Aaron Baddeley faded after a good start to finish 57th, Phil Tataurangi had a poor weekend after a good start to the event and Michael Campbell probably blew any slim chance he had of a Presidents Cup spot when 69th.
The PGA Championship continues to produce, at times, surprise winners but the years ahead, and Micheel’s ongoing success or otherwise, may well determine just how much of a surprise this was.