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THE PRICE IS RIGHT
John Garrity
August 24, 1992
For Nick Price, who had come so close in other majors, steady play paid a big dividend at the PGA
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August 24, 1992

The Price Is Right

For Nick Price, who had come so close in other majors, steady play paid a big dividend at the PGA

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Bravely, Price made his 14-foot come-backer for par, after hardly pausing to line it up. "That, right there, was the putt of the tournament," said Cook. "There was no wavering about Nick Price today."

For his patience and persistence Price, a South Africa-born Zimbabwean with a British passport and an Orlando, Fla., address, got a silver cup and $280,000—enough to keep Baby Gregory in Pampers for some time. Whatever he does with the money, Price figures to wear the mantle of PGA champion more gracefully than Daly has. The legend of Crooked Stick played kick-the-can with sudden celebrity all year long, and by the time he got to Bellerive he was damaged goods.

Having survived the cut by only a stroke, Daly teed off with the dew-sweepers on Saturday and shot a 79. Then in an interview with CBS's Jim Nantz that was broadcast after that round but had been taped the night before, he also teed off on everybody but the Democratic Congress for his year of turmoil. Can't make those putts, he said, with flight attendants, journalists, palimony attorneys, the Buick Division of General Motors and Brent Musburger hanging on my putter.

"All those newspaper guys, I would love to find out what their lives are like," said Daly, apparently in search of a sleeping aid. And he never trashed that hotel room in Jamaica. It was in South Africa!

Daly's tour colleagues have found some of his antics harmless, but they can't have been amused by his account of the airplane incident that caused him to miss the Buick Classic in June. It was tournament officials, he told Nantz, and not airline representatives, who told reporters he was drunk when he had his run-in with a flight attendant while boarding a Continental flight from Denver to Newark. "I won't go buy a Buick anymore," said Daly, a remark that will no doubt draw the wrath of PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, and maybe a hefty fine.

It's one thing to rationalize the airplane faux pas; it's something else to rationalize bad course management. When Daly barely made the cut and wound up last at Muirfield, he said his high-ball game wasn't suited to windy, links-style golf. Fair enough. At Bellerive he noted that the course penalized long hitters. O.K. Increasingly, though, Daly's refusal to adapt seems more and more like outright stubbornness. "I can not hit a one-iron off a par 5," he said last week, referring to Bellerive's double-dogleg, number 8, a serpentine trail lined with trees, bunkers and deep rough. "I don't believe in it."

His fans, of course, egg him on. They went crazy on Friday when Daly belted one of his huge drives from the elevated tee on number 12, flying fairway bunkers and rough and nearly reaching spectators on a fairway crosswalk 350 yards away. A moment later Sutton and Corey Pavin, his playing partners, put their drives prudently short of the bunkers and a hundred yards short of Daly's wallop, drawing derisive laughter from the gallery. Daly relishes such moments, but playing to the crowd can be as destructive to a player of talent as whiskey or drugs. He must learn that the tiny triumphs, over four days, don't necessarily add up to victory.

None of this squandering of opportunity would matter if Daly were still a carefree bachelor, but he recently took on the obligations of a family man, marrying the former Bettye Fulford, his on-again, off-again fiancée. The infant in the carriage at Bellerive was his own Baby Shynah, and if she's going to live in the manner to which she has already become accustomed, Daddy is going to have to do better than 82nd place and $2,200 at his next PGA.

Baby Gregory, on the other hand, has a paragon of stability for a dad. Price talks fast, walks fast and has a roguish smile, yet his résumé—which includes a two-year hitch in the Rhodesian Air Force in his teens—reveals an unusual solidness and depth of character. On Sunday he recalled his disappointment at Royal Troon in 1982, when he led by three shots with six holes to play, only to lose to Tom Watson by a stroke. "That was probably the best thing that could have happened to me." said Price. "Who knows what kind of person I would have been if I'd won a major championship at age 25?"

The question was rhetorical, but one could hazard a guess: like John Daly.

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