Surprise PGA Championship winner escapes Woods' patented victory run

Tiger misses Beem of hope

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2002

CHASKA, Minn. -- Playing as if he had nothing to lose, Rich Beem buried Tiger Woods and captured a PGA Championship even he thought he had no business winning.

Beem hit a 5-wood to within 6 feet for an eagle on the 11th hole to seize control, then put the finishing touches on a fearless round by rolling in a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to thwart a final charge from Woods.

Seven years ago, Beem was selling car stereos and cell phones for $7 an hour. Even after the third round, he said guys like him weren't supposed to win majors.

Surprise!

Beem stared down the world's best player under the stifling pressure of a major championship at Hazeltine on Sunday, closing with a 4-under 68 for a one-stroke victory over Woods.

''I'm still surprised at myself,'' Beem said. ''I'm elated beyond belief. I was a lot more in control of my emotions than I ever have been under that kind of pressure.''

 

The scoreboard tells the story and Rich Beem holds his trophy after he won the PGA Championshp Sunday at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

AP Photo/Amy Sancetta

Woods did his part. Unwilling to give up after back-to-back bogeys, Woods birdied the final four holes to keep alive fleeting hopes of becoming the first player to win the three U.S. majors in the same year.

Beem never flinched.

He finished off his incredible round with a harmless three-putt bogey on the 18th, lifted his arms and did a shimmy shake under the bright skies of Minnesota before taking a bow.

Woods watched the final putt on a television in the scoring trailer. He had told caddie Steve Williams that four birdies on the final four holes would be enough to win the tournament.

''I went ahead and birdied out, and we didn't win,'' Woods said. ''At least I gave it my best effort. We just came out a little bit short.''

Woods closed with a 67, matching the best score of the day.

Chris Riley shot a 70 and was another stroke back, his best finish in a major and good for a trip to the Masters next year.

The season's final major has seen this before. Beem, who finished at 10-under 278, became the 12th player to make the PGA Championship his first major victory.

What set Beem apart from a long list of surprising winners -- John Daly, Wayne Grady, Mark Brooks -- was the guy chasing him.

All year long, past major winners like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have complained that too many players wilt when they see Woods' name on the leaderboard.

Woods showed up quickly with three birdies and two amazing pars on the front nine, putting him just one stroke behind Beem with nine holes to play.

Beem didn't buckle. He simply continued to blast away.

Hitting driver on just about every hole and attacking the pins, Beem turned a one-stroke advantage into a six-stroke lead over Woods in a matter of four holes.

The biggest was his 5-wood second shot on the 597-yard 11th hole.

''Come on! Come on!'' Beem yelled as the ball soared over a cluster of bunkers, landed on the front of the green and didn't stop rolling until it was 6 feet from the cup. He made that for eagle to get to 10 under.

Woods played in the group ahead of Beem, although he knew who was on top.

A scoreboard was directly behind the cup on No. 13 as Woods stood over a 12-foot birdie putt that would have pulled him within two strokes of the lead. Instead, he three-putted for bogey, then dropped another shot on the next hole.

The key putt came on No. 16, the hole where Payne Stewart won the 1991 U.S. Open at Hazeltine. Beem begged his 9-iron to clear a marsh on the corner of Lake Hazeltine, and it barely did. His 35-foot birdie putt was true.

Beem pumped his fist and heaved his ball in celebration.

The best part was still to come. After holing out on the 18th, he jogged over and kissed the Wanamaker Trophy.

''I had no expectations,'' Beem said. ''I really enjoyed this golf course. I thought I could get around it. But I never expected this.''

Beem keeps a bottle of antacid in his bag and takes a swig before the round to calm his nerves.

Give the man a bottle of champagne. He's the toast of golf.

Beem collected $990,000 and a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and to the three other majors. He can return to the PGA Championship as long as he likes.

Not bad for a guy who gave up the game in 1995 and decided he was better off in a blue-collar job.

He was called a ''one-hit wonder'' when he won the Kemper Open as a rookie in 1999, especially when he didn't have any top 10s the next year and only narrowly kept his job for this season.

''To win a major, you have to have something special,'' he said Saturday evening. ''And I don't know if I have it.''

He does now.

Beem took the lead for the first time with a bogey on No. 8 -- Justin Leonard made double bogey by hitting into the water -- and he never gave it back.

''He just trusted and believed in himself and he got the job done,'' Woods said. ''Sometimes it may be a benefit to be a little naive in a situation.''

Leonard had been in that situation before, but simply didn't have the game Sunday to stay with Beem.

The '97 British Open champion, and a runner-up at Carnoustie three years ago, Leonard struggled to hit fairways and greens. His three-stroke lead was gone after four holes, and he wound up with a 77, tied for fourth with Fred Funk (73) at 284.

Woods started the day five shots off the lead but got into contention with three birdies and two big pars.

He chipped in for par on the first hole, and had an even better save on No. 8. From thick rough between two bunkers to a downhill pin with water behind the green, Woods hit a flop shot that stopped within a foot of the hole.

He was one stroke out of the lead, with nine holes to play against a former stereo salesman, and all signs pointed to his ninth major championship.

It was reminiscent of Woods' battle with unheralded Bob May at Valhalla two years ago at the PGA, which Woods finally won in a playoff for his third straight major.

Beem was even better than that, and Woods made two mistakes that proved costly.

Despite Beem's victory two weeks ago in the International, not many people knew him or expected much out of him in a major championship.

They will now.



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