Micheel saves it for end

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - History has a way of repeating itself in golf, particularly in major championships. There were a few memories stirred yesterday by Shaun Micheel in the final round of the 85th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, none more so than with his next-to-last shot.

With a 7-iron from 175 yards in the first cut of rough on the par-4 18th hole, Micheel's ball sailed over the bunker protecting the green, bounced and rolled to within two inches of the cup. A few minutes later, he tapped in for a birdie and the first victory of his four-year PGA Tour career.

With a final round of even-par 70 and a four-round total of 4-under-par 276, Micheel beat playing partner and fellow Hooters Tour alumnus Chad Campbell by two strokes. Tim Clark of South Africa, who briefly tied Micheel for the lead through nine holes, finished three behind.

The victory was worth a little over $1 million to Micheel.

The surprising win meant that, for the first time since 1969, the winners of golf's four marquee events were first-time major champions. It followed an even more shocking victory by Ben Curtis in last month's British Open at Royal St. George's.

Micheel joined six others on a list of players whose first tour victories came in the PGA Championship. The victory-securing approach on the last hole was reminiscent of the 5-iron approach Jerry Pate hit from the right rough to within a couple of feet to help win the 1976 U.S. Open at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

"I really can't believe this has happened to me," said Micheel, 33, who was ranked 169th in the world coming in. "I showed up here on Tuesday and saw how difficult this golf course was. And after [missing the cut] last week, I was just trying to make the cut. I know that sounds pretty simple, but that was my main goal. I probably would have been happy with that."

Micheel's goal changed when he birdied four of his last five holes on Friday to take a surprising two-stroke lead. His lead grew to four during Saturday's round before he bogeyed the last three holes and found himself tied for the lead with Campbell.

He recalled a conversation he had with his wife, Stephanie, after the third round.

"I think she could see the disappointment in my eyes and my voice," Micheel recalled last night. "I was extremely disappointed with my finish [Saturday]. I didn't choke. I didn't do anything. I just missed fairways, that's all I did."

He missed more fairways yesterday, eight of the 14. But he also made a bunch of putts, including a 30-footer for birdie on the par-4 opening hole that helped him stretch his lead to two when Campbell bogeyed, and another 30-footer for birdie on the par-4 16th that gave him a two-stroke lead again after Campbell rolled in a 50-footer for birdie on the par-5 13th.

"I made more long putts than I have in a long time," said Micheel.

But it will be his shot from the left rough that he and everyone else who watched it will remember for a long time.

After making bogey on the par-4 17th and seeing his lead over Campbell cut to one, Micheel tried to cut his drive from left to right on 18. It didn't turn over completely and he saw the ball headed for the left rough.

Suddenly, it took a couple of bounces back toward the fairway before settling in the plush first cut.

"I got a pretty nice bounce," Micheel said later. "The ball was sitting up great. It was an absolutely perfect number [of yards to the pin]."

With a swing that will be replayed for the ages, Micheel's shot sailed high over the bunker guarding the green and stopped one rotation from dropping in the cup. As he climbed onto the green and saw how close his ball came to going in for eagle, he patted his chest over his heart a few times.

After Campbell putted out, Micheel put his ball down and tapped in.

As the huge crowd surrounding the 18th green roared, Micheel hugged his caddie as his pregnant wife ran down from the gallery. Micheel kissed his wife, who is due to have their first child in late November, and also kissed her stomach.

"I had tears," said Stephanie Micheel, who has known her husband since he was 12 and she was 10. "It couldn't have been a better ending. He's been working on this his entire life."

Said Campbell, 29, who played the mini-tours with Micheel: "That would probably be the best shot I've seen under pressure."

Micheel admitted that playing with Campbell yesterday and with Billy Andrade on Saturday, made it easier for him to keep his wits about him. He also admitted something few major champions before him had after winning.

"I know I am the champion. I know I shot the lowest score. But I wish I could have played a little better today," he said.

Micheel certainly played better than others with major championships on their resume. Better than reigning Masters champion Mike Weir of Canada, who started three strokes behind the leaders and bogeyed his first five holes in a round of 5-over-par 75. Better than three-time major champion Ernie Els of South Africa (71) or two-time major champion Vijay Singh (79).

And way better than Tiger Woods, who had his worst major as a pro, finishing with a 3-over-par 73 for a four-round total of 12-over 292, tied for 39th place.

Woods was long gone by the time Micheel stepped up to his ball on the 18th. The moment it landed, many thought of Pate. Others with longer memories recalled the legendary Ben Hogan's 1-iron to win the U.S. Open at Merion in 1950.

Just don't ask Micheel to rate his shot among those in the game's lore.

"I'm not a great historian of golf," he said.

Until yesterday, he wasn't terrific at finishing off tournaments, either, and hadn't won a professional event since the 1999 Greensboro Open.

That changed with one swipe of a 7-iron last night that landed two inches from the hole, stirring more than a few memories at Oak Hill Country Club.

Leader board

The winner ...

Shaun Micheel 69-68-69-70-276

... and selected followers

Chad Campbell 69-72-65-72-278

Tim Clark 72-70-68-69-279

Alex Cejka 74-69-68-69-280

Jay Haas 70-74-69-69-282

Ernie Els 71-70-70-71-282

Loren Roberts 70-73-70-71-284

Fred Funk 69-73-70-72-284

Mike Weir 68-71-70-75-284

Jim Furyk 72-74-69-72-287

Phil Mickelson 66-75-72-75-288

Tiger Woods 74-72-73-73-292

Complete scores. [Page 9d]

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