Maria Floyd watched with everyone else on Sunday when her husband, Raymond, reached the 164-yard 15th hole on the Champion Course at PGA National Golf Club. A year before, Floyd had stood on this tee and dumped two balls into the water to the right of the green to blow a seemingly solid lead and hand the PGA Seniors' Championship to Lee Trevino. This time, Floyd had a five-stroke lead, and no way was he going toward the rocks and water hazard that make this the scariest par-3 on the Senior PGA Tour.
Floyd took a seven-iron and aimed at a palm tree behind the green. If he gave a thought to last year's double fault, it was that he made a mechanical error by standing too close to the ball. The rest of it he blocked out. "You've got to put those things in the past," Floyd said later. "And I did."
Maybe Floyd did, but his wife didn't. "I wasn't happy until he was dry on 15," Maria said. This time his ball was right on line, landing safely on the left front of the green. Floyd two-putted for his par and held his five-stroke margin to the finish. Three players, one of them Trevino, tied for second.
"Raymond has a good memory," Trevino said. "I thought he might have forgotten what happened last year. He came in here with an itch to win, and he didn't want the same thing to happen to him again."
This was the fifth time on the Senior tour that Floyd, one of golf's alltime front-runners, has led entering the final round and gone on to victory. The only lead he has blown was here last year, when he was two strokes up after 54 holes and four up with nine holes to play—exactly the same margins he had last weekend.
But Floyd wasn't boasting about getting even with the Champion Course by shooting an 11-under 277, or with the 15th hole by making four pars. "Believe me," he said, "I've played enough golf courses that have whipped me, or golf tournaments or holes, that if I had to try to get even, there wouldn't be enough time in my life."
At 52, Floyd is playing the best tee-to-green golf of his career. "Better than when he won the Open at Shinnecock in '86," said his son Robert, a freshman golfer at the University of Florida. "As well as anyone I've ever seen," said his caddie Steve Williams, who used to carry for Greg Norman.
With 10 wins, 13 seconds and four thirds, Floyd has been win, place or show in more than half the 48 Senior events he has entered. Still, this was his first win of 1995, and he has struggled with his putting, once his trademark. He missed only 11 greens all week at PGA National but averaged 31 putts per round. "I'm not nearly as good a putter as I used to be in my prime," Floyd said. "When I say 'my prime,' I mean the early '80s, when I was winning two or three tournaments a year. I can still putt, but I'm not as good as I used to be."
For Floyd and the other seniors who competed in Augusta, last week was hard to get primed for. With 27 holes to go in the Masters, Floyd was seven under par and close to the lead. Unable to sustain that pace, he eventually finished 17th. The last place he wanted to be on the very next Tuesday was driving up Interstate 95 to play in another tournament. Then, when he arrived at PGA National, he was greeted by a scene not usually associated with a major championship.
Avenue of the Champions, which leads to PGA National, will never be confused with Augusta National's Magnolia Lane. This year it was adorned with corporate flags advertising Oldsmobile, the GM Card, Chap Stick and Advil. Attendance was so sparse that when Floyd went out for a practice round, he nearly had the course to himself. "I was home in Miami yesterday and didn't touch a club and really didn't want to come up here today," he said on Tuesday. "It's a big letdown after the Masters."