Woods heard the roar while making par on 12. He knew what the sound meant: Suddenly, he was trailing by three. Leonard had wilted under his gaze, but Beem was not cooperating. Standing on the 13th green, lining up a 15-foot birdie putt, Woods showed a side of himself that we hadn't seen. He said later he couldn't decide on the speed of the putt. It was more than that. His eyes were practically bulging out of his head, which perhaps was preoccupied with Rich Beem. Woods three-putted 13 and made a bogey on the short 14th, too, missing the fairway on his tee shot with a four-iron. Then on 15 Woods became his regular, killer self again, playing the final four holes with relentless gusto, unfathomable skill and with a level of intense desire that no game deserves. As he barked orders to his airborne tee shot on the par-3 17th, his words were guttural, primal, fierce. The ball finished 10 feet from the hole. Four closing birdies. They just came too late.
Beem, who crashed in a 35-foot birdie putt on 16 that gave him the cushion he so desperately needed on 18, is one of the great pieces of work on the Tour, maybe about the only one left. Playing the 1999 Hawaiian Open as a Tour rookie, he bought hot dogs for lunch from a tent on the course, unaware of the free food for players in the clubhouse. Later that year he arrived at the Kemper Open, outside Washington, D.C., ranked 202nd on the money list, and won. Only four years earlier the '93 graduate of New Mexico State had been out of golf, working at Magnolia Hi-Fi in Seattle, earning $7 an hour—"plus commission," he always notes—selling stereos. He earned $990,000 on Sunday, two weeks after collecting $810,000 for winning the International, outside Denver. This week he returns to Seattle, to play in a World Golf Championship event (first-place prize: $1 million) and to visit his old buds at Magnolia Hi-Fi.
When he left Seattle in 1996, he was broke, a failed golfer, a bachelor who drank too much, a blues song waiting to be written. He still loves a party and to sip adult refreshments, but now he has a wife, Sara, and a house equipped with a home theater and killer sound system in his hometown of El Paso. There's music in the man. You can see it in the crashing rhythm of his driver. You can see it the way he bops down the fairway. After he holed his winning putt on 18, he did a funky little boogie and then shimmied over to the Wanamaker Trophy and gave the big jug a kiss. It was as if the old KC and The Sunshine Band hit were running through his head:
Do a little dance,
Make a little love,
Get down tonight,
Get down tonight.
Before long he was drinking a Jack Daniel's and Coke and praising the wonders of Pepto-Bismol and Port-A-Potties, both of which helped him get through his final round. "Maybe for Tiger this gets old," he said, "but I'm going to soak this in forever."
But he didn't beat Woods with funky dance moves and self-effacing quotes. He beat him because, deep down where it counts, he is that flinty little Texan trying to beat the world. Every time Larry Beem, the golf coach at New Mexico State, would play with his son, he'd tell him, "Boy, you ain't s- - -, and you ain't gonna be s- - -." And every time Rich Beem would try in vain to beat his father, until one day he did. On Sunday he had the chance to beat the best of them all. And he seized it.