Boss, we put together that Price control strategy thing you asked for, but it's not pretty. You sure you wouldn't like to have a seat?
No. Right. Well, first, the guys down in History have decided to classify this Nick Price guy as "scary good." He kept another major away from the Americans on Sunday—that's eight of the last 10 and four in a row, if you're counting—and this one was just a plain ol' Oklahoma barbecue. It was the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, and Price won by six shots over the best field since, well, since ever. All top 40 guys in the Sony Ranking were there, which had never happened before, and Price dusted them like 40 acres of soybeans.
And when you put this with his British Open win last month, it means the man from Zimbabwe belongs with Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead on the list of seven guys who've won back-to-back majors since World War II, which the boys downstairs say is like throwing you in with Renoir and Matisse and Picasso, if that gives you any idea.
The people up in Tactics have been all over the dirt angle, but they've got nothing. Turns out Price is as clean as he seems. He's one of those relentlessly cheery guys who signs every T-shirt and smiles for every Kodak and shakes every paw. Even after he'd done four hours of interviews and speech-giving Sunday night and was finally on his way to his car, dead tired, he stopped and shook the hands of all the CBS roadies who were breaking down the TV scaffolds. When he won the British Open at Turnberry in Scotland last month, he flew his plane down to England where his mom lives, surprised her at her house, sat her down at the kitchen table, plopped the trophy in front of her and said, "Enjoy."
As for vices, we know he smokes about six or seven cigarettes a round, but only from the tee to his ball, and even then he cups the thing in his right hand like it's illegal—"I don't want the kids to see," he says—and when he gets to his ball, he gives it to Squeeky, his caddie. Poor Squeeky, he's trying to quit, he's even on the patch, and suddenly he has a lit cigarette in his hand.
The guys in Technical can't understand how this guy hits it so good. He lines up the putter in front of the ball before he gets around to striking it, like your basic C-flight player in the Bartlesville Jaycees Scramble. But his putts have this weird habit of diving in the hole like they're sensitive to light. And his golf swing is so frantic and fast he looks like he's trying to win Hernia of the Month. But the ball comes off the face so pretty and straight it could make a grown 15 handicapper cry. Ben Crenshaw, a noted source on this stuff, said nobody has hit it this pure since Hogan or Byron Nelson, which is a mouthful, considering it skips over J.W. Nicklaus himself.
The "scary" part is that Price is going this good—16 wins worldwide in 24 months—and he might not even be in a zone. "I'm not streaky," he said in Tulsa. "I know what's making it work." Right now, he's winning tournaments the way Nicklaus used to: left and right and from behind and from ahead and with incredibly heroic shots and run-of-the-mill, step-on-their-neck pars. "It just seems like he wins everything he enters," Phil Mickelson said last week. "In reality, he only wins half."
Not true. On this particular ungodly stretch, he has won three out of four—the Western: the British; fourth in Memphis, where he was one shot out of a three-way playoff; and now this, his third career major. He has won three out of four. That sounds like some submarining baseball pitcher, but this is golf and we're talking about beating 150 guys at a time. And it's not like this is new. He has been whipping these guys like egg yolks for two years. Since he won his first PGA Championship in 1992, he has finished in the top 10 in 61% of his starts all over the world and won every fourth tournament. Somebody asked Corey (Dreaded Best Player to Never Win a Major) Pavin, who finished second at Southern Hills, if Price might ever cool down. "I hope so," Pavin said. "I'd like to win something."
This Passport Slam thing had never even come close to happening before—Americans have failed to win more than one major only once since the first Masters in 1934—and so one of the wise guys down in Creative asked when the American golf strike is going to end. But that's the funny thing. The Americans had Price reeled in and then they let him go. What happened was Price shot 67 and tied for the lead on Thursday with Colin Montgomerie, a Brit. Then Price burned rubber Friday morning with a 65 and took a five-shot lead. But Saturday it looked like the Yanks had the dragnet over him. Jay Haas was even within two shots of him halfway through the day. The top of the leader board was getting crowded, and Price's neckline was getting a little tight, and his playing partner, Pavin, was chipping in on back-to-back holes. One fan hollered out, "Let's see you sweat, Nick!"
But it was just about then that the American flight hit large pockets of bogeys. Haas made a triple at 15 and Pavin a double on 14 and Mickelson a double at 12, and suddenly the best player in the world had himself smooth air and a three-shot lead again. They rattled him into five sand traps, but Price saved par out of the sand all five times. "I won the championship yesterday," Price said on Sunday, when it was over. The boys in History are looking it up, but it may be the first major won with a Saturday even-par 70.