The Price of Success
"It feels like a troupe of monkeys has been lifted from my back," Nick Price said after shattering his reputation as a guy who couldn't win the big one with his victory at the 1992 PGA Championship. But now that he has won three major titles, including the 1994 British Open and PGA Championship, a new troupe of monkeys is weighing Price down.
The warning signs came two weeks ago during the Shell Houston Open. Price was in the middle of an opening-round 75 when his caddie, Squeeky Medlen, realized his player had burned out. He could see Price hitting shots without his heart or his mind. He knew Price, the world's No. 1-ranked player, was going through the motions. "You need some time off," Medlen told Price. "You've lost your edge." Price listened, and last Monday he announced he was pulling out of the BellSouth Classic in Marietta, Ga., and the Byron Nelson Classic in Irving, Texas, and taking three weeks off. He will return to defend his title at the Colonial, which begins May 25 in Fort Worth.
Price's decision was not an easy one. He had good records in both Atlanta and Dallas, having tied for second at the BellSouth in 1993 and won the Byron Nelson in 1991 after an eight-year winless streak on the PGA Tour.
Other players have experienced similar funks, and they saw Price's coming. "It's a very difficult balancing act that you hope to get the opportunity to learn how to handle," says Tom Kite. "You're playing well, you're winning tournaments and you're in demand. It's a very stressful situation. There are more people who want more of your time, and you end up having to say no a lot more than you ever had to in the past. Sooner or later you say, 'Time out. I have to regroup.' "
"I think a lot of us were surprised it didn't happen to him sooner," says Davis Love III. "I always felt that when I was going good, the golf was the easy part. It was when you walked off the course until you got back on the course the next day that was the hard part. Nick Price is such a good guy that he can't just walk past people."
"I've had a lot on my mind," Price said on May 1 at the PGA media day at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. "I think basically what happens is two or three months after you get involved in a lot of things, it catches up with you. I'm just going through that period right now. I just need a little bit of downtime to focus on the U.S. Open. I need to let the urge build up inside of me."
Price is using his time off to complete a move from a lakefront home near Orlando to a mansion near Greg Norman's compound on Jupiter Island in Hobe Sound, Fla. Having signed a reported 10-year, $25 million contract with Atrigon in March, he is also at work designing a line of clubs for the company, and he hopes to have them in his bag at the PGA Championship in August.
"I wouldn't feel too sorry for Nick," Kite says. "I'm sure he'll play pretty well before the year is over."
Weighing His Options