Estes doesn't do a lot of talking on the front nine. "Bob has his friends on Tour, but he's pretty quiet," Mohr tells me later. "I don't think a lot of people know the real Bob. He's somewhat of a mystery man. He treats me with respect, and that's something. He's one of the few players who actually returns phone calls. It doesn't matter who you are, Bob will call you back."
Estes suddenly gets vocal when he drains a 20-footer for birdie at the par-3 8th to tie the match after being 2 down through the first five holes. As his putt rolls toward the cup, he says, "Oh, no, don't do that!" Which means he knew the putt was in the moment he hit it. I get another "Oh, no!" at the 13th, and he closes me out, 3 and 1, with a birdie at 17.
After a drink in the clubhouse it's on to Estes's condo, walking distance away. We're barely in the door when he says, "You've got to see this," and hauls out before-and-after photos of his three-bedroom, three-bath, 2,200-square-foot bachelor pad. The photos are hilarious, not dorky-deadly as I had feared. The previous residents had a thing for padded wallpaper and hideous black, pink and green floral patterns. Estes's girlfriend, Tracy Hagemann, a model, helped him redecorate. (Mystery man dates gorgeous model? It's true. They were an item for several years, split up, then got back together last Christmas.) The dining room is now a muted red and furnished with an antique table and chairs, a tasteful blend of old and new. The obligatory large-screen TV dominates the living room, which also has a leather sofa and chairs. Outside, Estes's balcony overlooks a marina and offers a superb view of Lake Austin as well as the 3rd green.
Estes has made a dinner reservation at Sullivan's, a popular downtown steak house. We're joined there by another of Estes's agents, David Winkle, and Estes's trainer, Scott Hennig, who was the 1998 U.S. indoor pole vault champ. When the waiter asks about drinks, Hennig orders a Shiner (a beer brewed in Shiner, Texas), but Estes hesitates. He and Hennig quickly run through Estes's upcoming training schedule and decide that one beer won't hurt, so it's Shinerbocks all around.
"I train Bob like an explosive athlete," Hennig says, and I get a firsthand look the next morning at eight. Sunlight streams through the health club's floor-length windows as Estes finishes stretching and warming up on a treadmill. In shorts and a T-shirt, he looks nothing like the string bean all-district basketball player he was at Cooper High. He's ripped.
It's no wonder. In this session Estes goes at it hard for an hour, hitting weight stations and forcefully flinging a medicine ball as Hennig puts him through his paces. At last year's Tour Championship, Hennig noticed that Estes's upper body was too loose, so he had him throw a medicine ball in the parking lot before the third round. Estes shot a 65 that day. "Bob is the most dedicated person I've ever met," Hennig says, pausing for effect. "I mean, the most dedicated."
I get confirmation of that a few weeks later at the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. I ask sports psychologist Bob Rotella, who has worked with Estes, to describe Estes's personality in a single word. Rotella thinks for a moment, then says, "Discipline."
Brandel Chamblee, a fellow Texas alumnus who sees a lot of Estes on Tour, agrees. "His personality is almost like a Swede's, like a Bjorn Borg," says Chamblee. "Bob isn't a gregarious guy. He's not in the in-crowd, but that doesn't bother him. He's too busy thinking about any conceivable thing that might make him a better player. He saves his yardage books and draws the break of every putt he's ever hit on every green. He can tell you he had a putt in 1994 that broke this way or that way. He sends out Christmas cards every year, with a handwritten note and a handwritten address on the envelope. What single guy [on the Tour] does that?"
After the workout Estes showers back at his condo. Then it's on to the club for lunch and a meeting with another member of Team Estes, Bob Meyer, a chiropractic sports specialist. Dr. Bob—as everyone calls Meyer—works with many University of Texas and Olympic-caliber athletes. Estes sees him twice a week and receives various treatments, including acupuncture. "Several other golfers have asked me, 'What about Bob? What's he doing?' " Meyer says. "They see him looking more powerful, with a skip in his step, and they want the scoop. I just chuckle. Everybody wants an edge."
When we get back to Estes's place, we talk about his plan to play the regular Tour well into his 50s, about his win in Vegas and the stunning par he made from out of a bush in the final round there, about his new hairstyle (highlights on top) and about his mom, Bobbie, who handles his travel arrangements and mail, and how he bought her a new Lexus last year.