On Saturday, with Norman leading by two strokes over Jumbo Ozaki and his line of Liberace golfing wear, things just got uglier. Winds gusted up to 27 mph, the sun started turning everything brick-hard, and the scores rose like Southampton property values. Only three players broke par the entire day. "I can't remember ever playing in tougher conditions than these," said Norman, who still found more ways to save than WordPerfect, rescuing par an astounding 10 times.
The conditions ruined almost everybody else. Favorite Nick Faldo shot himself out of contention with a 79. Ozaki shot 80. Ben Crenshaw had not one but two chips on the 10th hole roll back 40 yards to his feet. Not long before Crenshaw played Skeeball on the 10th, Tom Kite was flying the golf ball back and forth over the same green. He and Crenshaw both made triple bogey. Somewhere Harvey Penick was chewing on a wedge.
All of which gave us a Sunday morning at the Open with some wonderful possibilities. Norman and Tom Lehman were tied for the lead at one measly shot under par, with Mickelson and Bob Tway one shot back, followed by, among others, Pavin three back and Love four back. "I would take 68 and sit back and watch," said Pavin before the round.
Norman, who had all his luck surgically removed as a boy, started Sunday by hitting the first flagstick with his wedge shot, a bad break that catapulted his ball off the green, from where he had to scramble for par. Not a good omen.
Right about then, the USGA did something completely different. It sealed up all the holes. No leader made a putt longer than his leg for two hours. Had Love sunk even half his four-footers, he would have run away with the title, and perhaps Robin would be looking at schools in the Hamptons now. Instead, he finished with a one-over 71, tied for fourth, and got passed the mantle of B.P.N.T.H.W.A.M. May he not keep it as long as Pavin.
If Mickelson had not played the par-5 16th seemingly blindfolded—he was six over for the hole on the week, including a double bogey in crunch time Sunday—he would have run away with the trophy, too. "That hole just crushed me," he said woefully. You know, Phil, to play those big par-5s, you've got to talk to the little guys. Pavin played the 16th in two under.
Anyway, by five o'clock Sunday, Shin-necock had a four-way tie for first among Lehman, Norman, Pavin and Tway. Then Pavin poured in an eight-footer for a birdie on 15 at just about the time Norman was missing a par putt on 13. Suddenly everybody was chasing Pavin.
Still, Norman came back to birdie the 15th, and what you had left was Pavin and a one-shot lead and the 18th hole. Now, the 18th at Shinnecock is meaner than gout—450 yards long, with the last 200 straight uphill, into a crossing wind and onto a green no bigger than a 10-man hot tub. Pavin's squirty drive left him 228 yards from a hole he couldn't even see, and it left the world wondering how in the world he could make a four. "You think I can get a two-iron there?" Pavin asked his longtime caddie, Eric Schwarz, who goes about seven inches taller than Pavin.
"No way," said Schwarz. "Hit the four-wood and stay with it."
So a little guy from Oxnard, Calif., got ready to hit the biggest shot of his life. In Pavin's losses at the 1992 Masters (where he came in third), the '93 British Open (tied for fourth) and last year's PGA Championship (second), there had always been the big shot he couldn't quite pull off. And now here it was again.