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Beware the Force
Jaime Diaz
July 17, 1995
Billy Mayfair (left) won the Western Open by avoiding the eerie pitfalls that befell his competitors
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July 17, 1995

Beware The Force

Billy Mayfair (left) won the Western Open by avoiding the eerie pitfalls that befell his competitors

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Sure enough, Ogle started administering glancing blows to his ball. He misfired on a seven-foot par putt on the 13th and again on a four-footer on the 14th. Frazzled, he pushed his drive into the woods on the par-5 15th, took two shots to get back into the fairway and eventually three-putted for a triple-bogey 8. He finished tied for 13th, four strokes behind Mayfair.

That left an opening for Estes, who, coming off the 15th green, was alone at nine under par. But Estes, a studious player who last year won his first Tour event, got fouled up as he scrutinized not one, but two leader boards.

The electronic scoreboards have small cubes of yellow light that form numbers against a black background. It appeared to Estes that there was a 9 next to both his and Maggert's names, when Maggert was in fact eight under. Believing he was tied for the lead, Estes changed his strategy accordingly.

Trying to make a birdie rather than a safe par, Estes turned aggressive after a good drive on the par-4 16th and hooked his seven-iron approach down an embankment left of the green and into a hazard. After taking a drop and missing a six-foot putt, Estes had a double bogey. He eventually fell into a sixth-place tie with Huston, Lowery and Bob Tway.

"I guarantee you I never would have hit it left if I'd known that I had a one-shot lead," said a visibly upset Estes after the round. "I've usually been good at finishing off tournaments when I have the lead, and that made it look like I hit just a wild hook and couldn't handle the heat."

Finally, the player who handled the heat—or avoided the Force—the best was Mayfair, who made only one bogey in his last 40 holes. He had come to the Western intent on following the cryptic advice of his sports psychologist, Bob Rotella: "Don't think about winning, but be prepared to win." Mayfair was so faithful to the mantra that even when he got over his final putt on 18, which would give him the lead alone for the first time, he thought it was for a tie.

"I asked my caddie, 'Do we need to make that putt?' and he said, 'Yeah, it would be nice if you made it,' " said Mayfair. "I just wanted to stay in the present and make a good stroke, so I really didn't need to know any more."

Mayfair wasn't the only player who came to the Western with little thought of winning. Fred Couples and Paul Azinger, both on the mend and struggling to rediscover their golf games in time for the year's last two major championships, came to Chicago for the purpose of taking some steps, and possibly some strides, in the right direction.

In terms of golf, Couples has probably been the more frustrated of the two. In each of the last two seasons he has begun the year either winning or threatening to win a few tournaments, only to be largely stifled by back problems. Couples has grown impatient at losing a valuable portion of his prime and silently worries that he may never be the same golfer again.

"Last year I kind of laughed about it, feeling I got three months off," said Couples, referring to the break he took after originally injuring his lower back on the practice tee at Doral in March. "Now, it's not so funny. I'm getting to the point that it's wearing on me."

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