Most of my friends blame Ian Woosnam's caddie, Myles Byrne, for the two-stroke penalty Woosnam was assessed for having too many clubs in his bag during the British Open. They're wrong. Woosnam is to blame. I learned that the hard way in 1990 during the New York State Open at Bethpage Black, the site of next year's U.S. Open. I could have set the course record, and maybe won the tournament, if I hadn't been penalized for failing to restart a rain-delayed round on time.
After only two holes in the first round a monsoon hit. Play was suspended for three hours, and when the weather cleared, officials called a five-minute players' meeting and said we'd have 15 minutes to get back into position. I told my caddie, Chuck King, to take my bag and wait for me on the putting green during the meeting, but when I returned, he was nowhere to be found. I burned up most of the allotted time frantically searching for him, then hustled back to the 3rd tee hoping that he'd be there. He wasn't. Chuck had gone to the other side of the clubhouse to wait for a van to take him back onto the course. When he finally arrived by van, my group had been forced to let another threesome play through. Chuck had made a mistake and was upset. I felt like screaming at him but didn't because I knew that I had screwed up more. I was responsible for my equipment and shouldn't have let it out of my sight.
On the 6th tee I was told that I'd be penalized two shots. Frankly, I was thrilled not to be disqualified, and I played the round of my life, making seven birdies without a bogey. My official score was 66, but I knew in my heart that I'd shot 64, which would've broken the course record by a stroke. I wound up losing the event by that same margin. Eleven years later, the experience remains the biggest letdown of my career. I think about it every time I drive past Bethpage, which is frequently since I live only a mile away. I'll try to qualify for next year's U.S. Open. Making the field would be a Tin Cup-like fairy tale. Imagine what kind of story another 64 would make.