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Golf's magic moment of 2003

November 11, 2003 10:53 IST
It was, unquestionably, the shot of the year and, in many ways, it symbolised the unpredictable pattern of the 2003 PGA Tour.

Unheralded American journeyman Shaun Micheel was standing in the first cut of rough on the 18th fairway at Oak Hill on August 17, with the final major championship of the year on the line.

World-ranked 169th at the time, the Memphis-based professional was just a stroke clear of the field and 175 yards from the pin.

Without any hint of nerve, Micheel coolly struck a near-perfect seven-iron approach to within two inches of the cup to set up a shock two-shot victory at the 85th U.S. PGA Championship.

The 34-year-old become the seventh player to clinch the tournament at the first attempt, and completed a clean sweep of first-time winners at the 2003 majors, following Mike Weir (U.S. Masters), Jim Furyk (U.S. Open) and Ben Curtis (British Open).

The four majors had not previously been won by first-timers in a single season since 1969, when George Archer took the Masters, Orville Moody the U.S. Open, Briton Tony Jacklin the British Open and Raymond Floyd the U.S. PGA Championship.

The man beaten into second place by Micheel on that sun-drenched day at Oak Hill Country Club was his playing partner Chad Campbell, who created his own magical moment of golfing celebration less than three months later.

On Sunday at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Campbell eased to a three-shot victory at the season-ending Tour Championship, becoming the first player to clinch that title for his debut win on the PGA Tour.

The 29-year-old Campbell, highly respected by most of his peers, had set up his breakthrough triumph in the elite field event with a scintillating 10-under-par 61 in Saturday's third round.

ROLLER-COASTER RIDE

He also ensured that the 2003 season, a roller-coaster ride of predictability and complete surprise, ended on a high.

Last year's PGA Tour featured 18 first-time winners, with journeyman Jerry Kelly and Len Mattiace both going on to win twice.

World number one Tiger Woods won the first two major championships of the year on his way to piling up more money than anyone else, but failed in his bid to secure a unique Grand Slam of all four majors in a single

season.

This year, though, was very different.

Woods won just as many times as he had done in 2002 -- five -- but was winless in the majors for the first time since 1998.

He surrendered his money list title to Fijian Vijay Singh, but clinched the Vardon Trophy for the fifth consecutive year with an adjusted scoring average of 68.41, the second lowest in Tour history.

There was a clutch of multiple winners on the PGA Tour, and the year proved to be a successful one for the 40-somethings, with 43-year-old Kenny Perry to the fore.

The highly popular Kentucky professional does not possess the most attractive of swings, but he was comfortably the hottest player on the tour midway through the season.

He won back-to-back titles in the Colonial and Memorial tournaments before victory at the Greater Milwaukee Open two weeks later put him firmly in line for 2003 player of the year honours.

LOST GROUND

Although he lost a little ground in that race to the likes of Singh, Woods, Weir and Love as the season unfolded, Perry signed off on Sunday with a 69 and a share of ninth at the Tour Championship.

He ended the best season of his 22-year career at sixth in the U.S. money list with earnings of $4,400,122 and 11 top-10 finishes.

"Overall, it was a great year," said Woods, who is probably a touch ahead of Singh in the battle for player approval as 2003 PGA Tour player of the year.

"It certainly was a very exciting year, with guys winning three, four, five tournaments, and having the best years of their careers.

"We also saw some great stories in major championships too...and the shot of the year was probably at the PGA by Shaun Micheel."

The ballots went on Monday for the 204 PGA Tour members to vote on their player of the year, a decision that will be announced on December 8.

Woods has said he would be surprised if he does not clinch the award for the fifth year in a row, and the sixth in all, based on his two World Golf Championships victories and his remarkable stroke average over the season.

For the moment, though, he will have to wait -- and he might end up disappointed.

Mark Lamport-Stokes
Source: source
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