Careless! There are those who believe that Monty is your fussy old aunt trapped in the body of a golfer, but by Friday he was proceeding through the rabble like an emperor. His face registered his surprise that the populace had come to praise him and not to bury him. Britain demanded of Monty that he seize the day.
Monty declined, and by Saturday the jig was up. By then four players—Duval, Langer from Germany, Ian Woosnam from the past and Alex Cejka from Czechoslovakia (but now a German)—were bunched in the lead at six under par. Behind them were nine more players within a shot and six more within two shots. Some big names were lurking in there: Darren Clarke, Jesper Parnevik and Nick Price. However, what really made a landmark out of the leader board was the name that was absent. At Royal Lytham the bunkers were as inevitable as death and
taxes. Everyone succumbed. Even Tiger.
For Tiger watchers the wilderness weeks stretch on. The British bookies had Woods at 7 to 4 to repeat his St. Andrews trick of last year and not hit a bunker all week. He had sand between his toes five times on Thursday and by Saturday was using eyewash to get the stuff out from beneath his lids. Things got worse from there, and by the time he finished, he was at one under, tied for 25th.
Of those who threatened, it was Woosnam, a throwback, who came closest. Now as unfashionable as sideburns and medallions, the little Welshman will reflect on this one into his old age. He'll remember how he barreled onto the 1st tee on Sunday, drew his blade and sent his first shot to within six inches of the hole. "Go-awrnn, Woosie!" came the shout as he drained the birdie putt and restored himself to a share of the lead.
On the 2nd tee box, lo, the grim reaper arrived. Woosie discovered that he had more than the limit of 14 clubs in his bag. Two-shot penalty!
His response was untouched by serenity. Woosnam vented. Tossed his hat. Fished the surplus driver out of his bag and flung it away. Minutes later came an ominous announcement in the press room: "We are endeavoring to find out more about Ian Woosnam's caddie." A prayer for the boy, Myles Byrne, one of a family of caddying brothers from County Wicklow in Ireland, seemed appropriate.
Woosnam, furious and distracted, bogeyed the next two holes before recovering for an eagle three at the 6th. He began putting his round back together. Even Byrne briefly lost the dead-man-walking look when Woosie birdied 11 and 13. Too little, too late, though.
Inexorably, the story was Duval. He was impeccable even when he wobbled. An errant tee shot on 15 put him in the left rough on Sunday, but his resolution was almost luminous now. He swept the ball out with a six-iron and brought it to rest 210 yards away on the green. Par assured and toughest hole conquered, he was on his way to a 67. With his first major at his fingertips, Duval looked like golf's next big thing again.
By 9 p.m. he was off the ground at Manchester Airport, headed for Toronto. He left behind an empty seat in that purgatorial waiting room for great players who have never, you know—whisper it—won a major.
He also erased a memory. On Sunday at St. Andrews last year, David and Julie waited patiently for Woods, with whom they were flying back to the States. David and Julie stood and watched the parade as Tiger gathered his entourage and everyone was herded giddily toward the cars. Watched as Tiger cuddled the claret jug. Looooong day.