He had one coming. Last month O'Meara was within three strokes of the lead going into the final round of the PGA Championship, but though he hit it like a champ all day, he didn't get a sniff on the greens, and with a final-round 73 he had his doors blown off by Steve Elkington. Last week was payback time.
"I didn't hit the ball as well today as I did in the final round of the PGA," O'Meara said, "but I was two over that day and five under today. And this is a tougher golf course. I can't explain it."
O'Meara was playing dumb. Jeepers, everyone in the dominion could see that a guy who one-putts the first five holes, like O'Meara did, holes out from a bunker on the 6th and gets it up and down for par at the 7th just might have something going for him. Through 13 holes, O'Meara had taken all of 15 putts. Can't beat that.
Actually, there were signs all around that it was going to be O'Meara's week. Despite drawing the dreaded late-early Thursday-Friday starting times, which guaranteed getting the worst of the weather in suddenly wintry Toronto, O'Meara opened with a 72 in the afternoon rain and followed with a brilliant 67 on a frosty Friday morning, when he needed only 24 putts.
That got the attention of Jack Nicklaus, who, in probably his last Canadian Open, was in the same group with O'Meara and had high praise. "He putted the ball about as good as I've seen," Nicklaus said.
O'Meara's win was his second this season, but more important, it was the milestone 10th in a 15-year career. O'Meara is 38, and of all the players on Tour still in their 30's, only Nick Price (14), Corey Pavin (13), Paul Azinger (11) and Fred Couples (11) have won more often.
Price had every opportunity to add to his total, but even though he came in third at Glen Abbey, he called it a moral victory. That's something of a step backward for a man who was emperor of the world last time he touched down in the Great White North. Exactly one year ago on this very spot, Price claimed his last victory. Since then, his mantra has been "It's really enjoyable to get out of the limelight." Unfortunately, once you get out, it's not always so easy to get back in. Price now claims he is mentally prepared to take that step. Most important, he has changed the way he feels about the burden of being No. 1.
"There were a lot of sacrifices, but I'm ready to go back at it," he said. The check for $88,400 that he picked up in Canada will help because it pretty much assures a spot among the top 30 money winners and a ticket to the $3 million Tour Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa at the end of October. Price, who ranks 25th with seven official events to go, won the last of his three major titles at Southern Hills in the 1994 PGA. He said winning there again would "turn what's been a very mediocre year into a very good one."
Price's game plan is to play in a couple of events in Great Britain before Tulsa, then afterward play a heavy November-December schedule that includes stops in Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe and South Africa. He wants to chill for most of December and January and not crank it back up until February. "I won't have the excuse of being burned out next year," Price said.
Planning for the future is the name of the game for a lot of the players this time of year. There are incentive clauses to fulfill and Tour cards to secure. A couple of guys helped themselves out in Canada. After missing five cuts in his previous six starts, Hal Sutton moved to 66th from 83rd on the money list by coming in fourth, his first top-10 finish since February. And Brian Kamm tied for ninth to jump to 108th on the money list, which means he is a lock to gain exempt status for 1996 by being among the final top 125.