That night, on the charter that took many of the players to the next Tour stop, the Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas, Mickelson sat next to Frazar. "Phil complimented me and then dropped it, and the conversation continued normally," Frazar says. "That made me understand that what I had done wasn't unique. He made me feel like one of the guys, a normal person."
Frazar grew up in Dallas playing junior golf with Justin Leonard, and they both went to Texas. After graduating in '94, Leonard went on to almost instant stardom on Tour, but Frazar, who finished school a year later, burned out on golf and unsure of his ability, took a job in real estate. Six months later he took the advice of a friend, '96 PGA champ Mark Brooks, and jumped back into the game. Frazar had two close calls in a row as a rookie in '98, at the Nelson and at the Colonial. He held the lead after 36 holes in both tournaments before finishing second and fourth, respectively.
"That was kind of my coming out," says Frazar, whose short game has improved over the last two years. "But getting into that position so early in my career and not coming through tainted me a little bit. If I had come through in one of those tournaments, I might've been off to the races."
Not long after his Battle of New Orleans last year, Frazar trailed Woods by a shot after 36 holes at the Memorial and was paired with Tiger for the third round. Frazar, though, got caught up in watching Woods, who went on to win, and shot a 78, prompting the obvious headline in The Columbus Dispatch: DOWN GOES FRAZAR! "Everybody uses that," says Frazar. "They use that when I choke and they use it when I go low. After New Orleans last year, people patted me on the back and said, 'You'll get 'em next rime.' Then I went to the Memorial and shot a 43 for nine. That was hard to swallow."
What stood between Frazar and a breakthrough win last week at English Turn was Toms, who shot 63-64 on the weekend, and Frazar's putting, which was erratic. Mickelson tried to gift wrap a win for Frazar by playing the first five holes on Sunday in four over par. Mickelson sprayed drives into the water on a pair of par-5s and triple-bogeyed the par-4 5th hole after snap-hooking his tee shot. That put Frazar into the lead, but he was passed when he bogeyed the 8th hole from the back bunker and made only one birdie on the back nine while Toms was firing his 30.
Frazar was two behind when he reached the 17th tee, where he hit a five-iron to the middle of the green, 20 feet below the pin—exactly where he had tried to play his shot last year. The consolation was negligible, however, when he missed the must-make birdie putt and then bogeyed the 18th. "I'm disappointed but not as disappointed as last year," Frazar said. "I feel as if I got a little bit of the monkey off my back by playing strong here, but I won't feel real redemption until I win."
The next two weeks are home games for Frazar. He'll commute from his house in Dallas to the Nelson, in Irving, Texas, and to the Colonial, in Fort Worth. He's familiar with both courses and usually plays them well. It could be his time to shed the hated label. "It's flattering to have people think you're talented enough to win," Frazar says, "although that adds a lot of pressure. I don't feel as if the clock is running. At the same time, I should've won by now."
Frazar missed a golden opportunity on Sunday, but, accompanied by his wife, Allison, he still stopped to sign autographs for fans gathered along the walkway from the 18th hole to the clubhouse. He held their 17-month-old son, Harrison, on his shoulder when they finally broke away toward the locker room. The baby, whose cheeks were red after a day of sun, looked back at the spectators, with whom he had been comically exchanging high fives. "Bye-bye," the boy said.
So long, kid. Bet we'll be seeing you and your dad again soon, and this time with a trophy.
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