That gave Jackie something to write about. She had agreed to do a daily diary for the Lexington Herald-Leader in exchange for a donation to charity. "I had to ask him some questions, and, to tell you the truth, I think I got on his nerves," Jackie says. "Russ told everybody later, 'Man, Jackie was doing this dang article, and we'd be lying in bed when she'd say, 'Honey, what were you thinking on the 9th hole?' He was mainly teasing me...I think."
The best was yet to come. Perry, who had played against Cochran when they were in high school and now lives in Franklin, Ky., had already fired up the partisan crowd by moving into a tie for third. When Cochran got hot on Saturday, enthusiastic fans swarmed across the back nine to catch up with their other favorite son. They saw him play a sweet six-iron to the 15th green that resulted in a birdie, and then he holed a sharp-breaking putt around a sprinkler head from just off the 17th green to save par. Cochran made another birdie after hitting a brilliant flop shot from a hanging lie near a bunker at 18 to cap off his seven-under 65. "I remember having everything right there, having the crowd behind me and getting supercharged," Cochran says. "People really got crazy on the back nine."
The ovation at the final green was the kind reserved for the likes of Jack Nicklaus. "It seemed as if the whole state was with me," Cochran says. "It felt great."
The excitement was contagious. The two oldest Cochran boys walked all 18 holes. Ryan, who would usually sneak off to watch someone else play a few holes, never took his eyes off his dad. "Everyone was so excited," Jackie says. "I have to say, I felt like a queen for a day. People were saying, 'Mrs. Cochran, can we get you anything? Do you need extra tickets?' Everybody treats you well when your husband shoots low scores."
At first the Sleep Inn was chaotic. Friends offered congratulations and asked for passes to Sunday's round. Eventually things quieted down. While Jackie drove back to Valhalla to pick up an extra 15 tickets, Russ and Case had dinner at a nearby restaurant. Later, the kids asleep, Russ watched a movie in the room.
No matter what happens, [Russ] is a good guy and a good father. All you can hope is for him to win or lose with dignity.
—Jackie's PGA diary
The Cochrans had a fitful night. "I don't think either one of us slept much," Jackie says. She dreamed that Russ's mother came for the final round. That was silly, she knew, because Marcia Cochran was in North Carolina attending a class reunion. Jackie went to the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Margaret Mary's Church while Russ and the kids got ready to go to the course. Kelly threw up while Jackie was gone, setting a tone that continued on the practice range as Russ warmed up. "I got a little quick on a couple swings, which is normal for me," he says. "I hit one four-iron kind of weakly, and some older fellow jumped up in the stands and yelled, 'C'mon, Russ! You're going to have to tighten up and do better than that!' I thought, Wow, he's wound up."
Russ's sister Kay was in the gallery with the kids. She asked Ryan if he was nervous about his dad. "No," he said, "I'll still see him tomorrow." Marcia Cochran was there, too. She'd gotten up in Boone, N.C., in the wee hours of the morning and driven the 400 miles to Louisville. There would be other reunions. Her son might never have another chance to win a major.
Cochran got off to a shaky start, mainly because his driver, the weakest club in his bag, let him down. Playing in the final pairing with Brooks also had him rattled. "Between holes we walked down narrow, roped-off paths," Cochran says, "and people were reaching over patting me on the back, wishing me well, grabbing me, shaking me and—not two feet from me—screaming, 'C'mon, Russ! Let's go!' Man, it was hard to calm down."
A poor drive led to the double at the par-5 7th, and after that, the PGA turned into a four-man race among Brooks, Perry, Steve Elkington and Vijay Singh. When Russ finished, Jackie gave him a hug by the scorer's tent. "Bad day," she said. "What the heck." He shrugged, spoke with a few reporters, signed hundreds of autographs and then hung out in the locker room with Danny Potts, his high school basketball coach.