Win a major golf championship? There must have been days when Steve Elkington wasn't sure he could go on playing golf at all.
This is a guy who must roll up his sleeves twice a week, swab a little alcohol on his triceps and stick himself full of allergy serum. You don't often see this: a golfer allergic to grass. A cop allergic to doughnuts.
Sounds funny, but even his wife, Lisa, walks out of the room for this part. She can handle 5�-hour sinus surgeries and constant infections and bouts with viral meningitis and searing headaches. But sometimes her eyes have seen too much.
Come from six strokes back on the last day, post an electric 64 and win a Maalox playoff? Are you kidding? This is a guy who had to step away from a few shots last week during the PGA Championship at Riviera because the ground was spinning. He had withdrawn from the Buick the week before with a sinus infection, and last Saturday morning he was so sick he wasn't sure he could get out of bed.
Reel in a god-in-waiting like Ernie Els on the last nine holes of regulation and then break portly Colin Montgomerie's heart with a birdie on the 73rd? Please. This is a guy who probably doesn't even belong in the sun. When doctors found melanoma on him last year, it meant removal of a surgical chunk out of his shoulder the size of a mown-in-half golf ball and the start of quarterly checkups.
But on Sunday in Pacific Palisades, Calif., Elkington stifled the sneezes, the runny noses and the congestion and became the guy who breathed his fondest wish. In a performance that matched the skinniest numbers in the history of golf's majors—68-67-68-64-267—he rotogravured his name on the Wanamaker Trophy.
O.K., so maybe history will giggle at this one. They'll cough at the crummy attendance, ahem at the obscene scoring (four 64s, two 63s and the lowest scoring average, 71.09, in major history) and sneer at the Naugahyde greens—spiked and brown and dead. And they'll point out that everybody was treating it more as a qualifier for next month's Ryder Cup at Oak Hill in Rochester, N. Y.
Well, maybe it was that, too. For the Americans this was the last chance to score real points for the 10 guaranteed spots and brownie points with captain Lanny Wadkins, who had two wild-card picks. Brad Faxon had tried Plan B: the power suck-up. At Phoenix he handed Wadkins a plate of cookies with milk and complimented his swing. Didn't work. Wadkins hinted it would be best if Faxon played his way on. He had tried Plan C: hope. His wife, Bonnie, is due with their third child on Sept. 18, the Monday of Ryder Cup week. The Faxons arranged to induce labor on the 11th, just in case.
But by Saturday night Faxon's options seemed shot. He was in 21st place, so he went back to Plan A: finish fifth and make the team on points. Good luck.
Except that Faxon shot a major-record 28 on the front nine and poured in a 17-foot par putt on the 18th to cap a sporty 63, which put him in, voila, fifth place. After he had made one of the greatest Ryder Cup qualification runs—and joined Jeff Maggert, whose third-place tie leapfrogged him from 11th onto the team—somebody asked Faxon why he wanted to make it so badly.