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The Unknown Factor
Michael Bamberger
August 25, 2003
With the big names stuck in the rough, Shaun Micheel cruised to the PGA Championship and proved that the majors are now anyone's game
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August 25, 2003

The Unknown Factor

With the big names stuck in the rough, Shaun Micheel cruised to the PGA Championship and proved that the majors are now anyone's game

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But all that time he was a journeyman with an asterisk, for something he did in New Bern in 1993 while playing in a third-tier professional event called the Croatan National Classic. He was sitting in a hotel parking lot when he saw a car plow down Pollock Street in downtown New Bern, veer off the road and go through a fence and into the Neuse River, in water nearly six feet deep. Micheel stripped to his boxer shorts on a river wall and swam, without hesitation, to the car. He and three others pulled out the elderly couple inside. "New Bern's an exciting town," Micheel told the local paper later that day. "You don't see stuff like this in Memphis."

Ten summers later, in the great golf town of Rochester, he created excitement all on his own. On the final hole, holding on to a one-shot lead, Micheel watched Campbell smash a long drive down the middle on the par-4. Micheel's drive was not as good, and only a favorable bounce kept it from going in the left rough. But—lucky day—his ball came to rest with a perfect lie, and at a perfect distance, 175 yards, for a full seven-iron.

Grass, with the help of science, does not get greener than it was at Oak Hill late Sunday afternoon. Skies do not get bluer. And shots do not get much purer than Micheel's final shot to the home green. His caddie yelled, "Be right!" as Micheel stared his ball down. He couldn't see its final resting place—two inches short of the hole. The shot's already on golf's alltime highlight reel.

Campbell made a par. Micheel tapped in for his birdie and came off the green as the PGA champion. Waiting for him was his pregnant wife, who had never seen her husband finish better than a tie for third in an official Tour event. Micheel kissed her stomach—and his son-to-be—then went off to sign his scorecard in the scorer's tent.

He reemerged a couple of minutes later to a cheering crowd, a golfing hero now. He didn't look different, not one little bit. He's done more important things in his life, and he knows it.

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