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Near-great Scott
John Garrity
August 28, 2000
Journeyman Scott Dunlap went toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods for three rounds. Then his putter betrayed him
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August 28, 2000

Near-great Scott

Journeyman Scott Dunlap went toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods for three rounds. Then his putter betrayed him

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Major Players of the year
Only 19 players made the cut in all four majors this season. Here are their average finishes and how they fared in four key statistical categories in the Grand Slam events.

Driving Distance

Driving Accuracy

Greens in Regulation

Putts per Round

Average Finish

Tiger Woods

301.4

76.3%

79.2%

29.56

2

Ernie Els

286.2

72.4%

72.9%

30.19

10

Phil Mickclson

283.2

69.0%

68.1%

29.69

11

Paul Azinger

279.7

64.7%

63.9%

29.13

18

Loren Roberts

258.0

79.3%

66.3%

29.00

19

Thomas Bj�rn

276.4

68.1%

66.3%

29.50

20

Notah Begay

276.5

69.8%

71.9%

30.94

22

Stewart Cink

281.2

65.5%

70.1%

30.50

23

Padraig Harrington

275.9

72.4%

59.4%

28.69

26

Steve Jones

280.1

69.0%

66.3%

29.50

27

Darren Clarke

269.6

77.6%

66.7%

29.63

28

David Toms

274.4

74.1%

64.9%

30.13

28

Nick Faldo

263.3

75.9%

61.5%

28.63

32

Justin Leonard

266.5

'/3.;r,

66.0%

30.00

32

Mike Weir

268.0

69.0%

65.6%

29.63

32

Colin Montgomeric

275.5

78.9%

69.1%

30.81

33

Miguel Angel Jim�nez

268.2

76.7%

64.6%

29.63

35

Sergio Garcia

278.5

71.6%

67.4%

30.50

39

Jim Furyk

270.1

76.7%

68.8%

31.63

47

The odd thing about Scott Dunlap is that people mistake his joys for ordeals. When he was kicking around on the South American and Asian tours a few years ago, people gave him that look that said, "How brave," as if he weren't blessed to be waking up to a view of the mountains above Rio de Janeiro or slurping Singapore noodles in Singapore. When he gave lessons at a sleepy golf club in South Africa in the early '90s, his friends back home in Sarasota, Fla., shook their heads—while he cackled over his Krugerrands and used the free time to work on his game. When he crossed the ocean at great expense to play quaint British courses in pursuit of a dream, folks dismissed him as imprudent, if not delusional, until they saw him on TV walking the fairways of Royal Birkdale, Carnoustie or St. Andrews.

So it came as no surprise to Dunlap that people kept offering him sympathy last week when he got yoked to Tiger Woods in the third round of the PGA Championship. Damn, Scott, it must make you sweat just to stand next to Tiger.... Don't the crowds make you crazy?...Keep your head up, fella. Don't listen to those TV guys who call you a "journeyman pro" and a "nobody."

Even on Saturday evening, after Dunlap had matched Woods shot for shot over 18 pressure-filled holes to remain a stroke out of the lead, writers repeatedly asked the 37-year-old journeyman nobody if he had had a sleepless night. "It was nothing to dread," said Dunlap of his duel with Tiger. "This was the carrot that's been dangling for me all these years. I was just anxious to see how I'd do."

Twenty-four hours later the carrot was gone and Dunlap was driving home to Duluth, Ga., in his green Lexus, a Pat Metheny CD providing the soundtrack for his thoughts. He was no longer the flavor of the day; another journeyman nobody, Bob May, was. What Dunlap had was a piece of ninth place and a check for $112,500. Good stuff if, like Dunlap, you've never won on the PGA Tour. But you don't beat Tiger Woods if you can't putt on Sunday.

As he drove, staring past the beams of his headlights, listening to the jazz and to his wheels going throp, throp, throp on the pavement, Dunlap was probably coming to grips with a cold, hard fact. He was probably thinking, I hit it good enough to win. Tee to green, I was as good as Tiger and Bob, but my putting still won't stand the heat.

God's joke on Dunlap was to make him a dead ringer for Mr. Carlin, the morose, cynical psychotherapy patient on the old Bob Newhart Show. To punch up the joke, God planted Dunlap in the world of professional golf, where the Carlins are as common as courtesy cars. But while other pros complain about the food, the travel or the wallpaper at the Ritz, Dunlap absorbs inconveniences with a seasoned equanimity. "Scott is the consummate professional," says Notah Begay. "He has played everywhere, he has paid his dues, and he really enjoys the pro golf lifestyle."

Certainly no Tour player this side of Vijay Singh has wandered down more foreign streets. Since graduating from Florida in 1985 with a degree in finance, Dunlap has bargained with taxi drivers in Ecuador, ridden chartered buses in Kuala Lumpur, won the national opens of Peru and Argentina, played $5 Nassaus in Zimbabwe—and grinned all along the way. A bachelor, he says, "I'm probably the only guy who went to Asia, played like a dog and had a great time."

But if Dunlap treasures his detours, he has never forgotten where he wanted to wind up: at golf's major championships. As a high schooler in Sarasota he memorized the names of all the U.S. Open champions, plus where they won and what they scored. ("The running joke was, 'Quiz me!' " he says.) From 17 on he tried to get into the U.S. Open through local and sectional qualifying. He failed two or three times by a stroke and several more times in playoffs before cracking the field in 1992. (His best finish in three Opens has been a 24th at Congressional in '97) He has entered the final stage of British Open qualifying four times, played his way into the field twice and played two other times on exemptions. Last year at Carnoustie he tied for 10th.

So enthralled is Dunlap with the historic venues that he can't fathom why some players see them as interchangeable tracks. Watching TV in the locker room at a U.S. Tour stop a few years ago, he saw Scott Hoch explaining in a taped interview why he wouldn't play in the British Open, even though he was exempt from having to qualify. Dunlap rolled his eyes and barked at the screen, "It's the birthplace of golf!" Turning to see if anyone shared his opinion, Dunlap was mollified to find Hoch, in the flesh, sitting behind him on a couch.

"I was really embarrassed," Dunlap says, "but I didn't take back what I had said. If you're a professional golfer, that week is holy. How can you not want to be there?"

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