That confidence was tested on Sunday when Price was paired in the final twosome with Faxon, who is considered to be Ben Crenshaw's successor as the best pure putter in the game. Leading by two strokes after 54 holes, Price watched Faxon, who had put on a putting exhibition two weeks before while winning in New Orleans, hole a 60-footer from off the green for a birdie on the 1st hole. Price topped him with a 20-footer for his own birdie. After Faxon, who also birdied the 2nd, hit his approach shot at the 3rd two inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie that moved him even with Price at 11 under, Price drained a 40-footer to go back in front. "I couldn't have picked a better time to hole a long putt," said Price. "It sent a signal that I wasn't going to lie down."
Turning the tables for good, Price holed a 20-footer for par at the 4th before Faxon three-putted the 6th for bogey and missed a six-footer for par at the 7th. When Price birdied the 7th and 8th with short-iron approaches that appeared to be equipped with hole-seeking material of their own, his lead was five and the tournament was over.
"All the ingredients were there, it was just a question of waiting for them to come together in one week," said Price, who credited his play to what he calls the X factor. "Your long game might be an 8 out of 10, and your putting is 7 out of 10," he said, "but then you multiply it by this confidence, or X, factor."
The real X factor might have been Medlen, whose leukemia was discovered during last year's Western Open. Cad-dying for Price since 1990, when his only Tour win had been the '83 World Series of Golf, Medlen played an integral role in Price's breakthrough years. Medlen, 42, last caddied at the Sarazen World Open in November and since then has undergone an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant from his mother, Jackie.
Price says that the prognosis is not good. "Squeek's sicker now than he has ever been," he said last week. When Price visited Medlen at the Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus on the Sunday before the Masters, he was devastated. "I barely recognized him," Price says. "He's down to about 120 pounds [from 180]. He has all these pipes coming out of him. It's difficult for him to talk. It's very, very sad."
At Hilton Head, Price's caddie was Jimmy Johnson, who was asked by Medlen to take the bag when he no longer could. Along with nearly all of the caddies at the MCI, and several players, Johnson pinned a green ribbon on his hat in honor of Medlen. "It was understood that we'd try to win for Squeeky," Johnson said. "Nick and I hate to even talk about it because it's on our minds every day and it's depressing. The happiest day of my life will be the day Squeeky comes back and caddies for Nick."
"I think about him probably 30 or 40 times a day," says Price, "so it's hard, especially the way I'm playing now. The last time I felt I was playing this well, he was right next to me. Poor Jimmy. I keep calling him Squeek."
Before last Thursday's opening round, Price called Medlen and became forceful after being told that he was balking at a doctor's recommendation to undergo a blood transfusion—again with his mother as the donor—in an attempt to raise his white blood cell count. "He was very negative," says Price. "I said, 'Hey, you don't know how many people have done so much for you. You can't just give up and say you are not going to do this.' And it seemed to work because it changed his attitude a little bit." Medlen acceded to the transfusion, and Price went out and played one of the best tournaments of his life. The entire scenario was eerily reminiscent of 1988, when Norman won at Harbour Town and dedicated the victory to Jamie Hutton, a young fan from Madison, Wis., who was also stricken with leukemia.
"I won this one for Squeek, and I just hope it gives him a boost," said Price, who during the final round wished his friend well through the lens of a CBS camera. No doubt that raised Medlen's spirits, just as an uncharacteristically dramatic week at Hilton Head raised Price's game back to where it belongs.