He wasn't talking about money—Strange has been a human automatic teller machine, finishing No. 1 on the money list in 1985 and '87—and he wasn't talking about wins, of which he now has 15. He was talking about majors. He had courted only one, the 1985 Masters, which he threw into the water guarding the 13th and 15th holes at Augusta, to the delight of Bernhard Langer.
"Majors," Strange said Thursday. "That's the thing I'm missing. But what would I trade for one? How many tournaments? I'd rather not trade. I'd rather add."
He started Sunday by subtracting. He bogeyed two of the first three holes. Suddenly, he wasn't in the lead, and the red shirt he had recycled from his wins this season at Muirfield Village and Houston looked blood red. "I wasn't feeling too sporty," he said after his round.
Just as suddenly, D.A. Weibring, a man who hadn't felt sporty all week because of a lingering intestinal bug, was acting very spry. He rammed in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 5th to tie with Faldo for the lead. Weibring had a good luck piece that his eight-year-old son, Matt, had given him before Thursday's round, and he kept tapping it. He finally must have tapped out, though, because he bogeyed the 8th and 17th and eventually finished tied for third, with a four-under-par 280.
Gilder, the race car driver, blew a gasket early, bogeying the 1st, 7th and 10th and assorted others, to finish tied for eighth. See you at Daytona, Bob? Simpson never so much as pestered the leaders again on his way to a 74 and a tie for sixth place. Only Mark O'Meara had a chance to really bother the big two on Sunday's back nine. He was within a shot of Strange and Faldo after birds at 9 and 10, but that was the end of his ornithology outing. He ended up two strokes behind, in a tie with Weibring and Steve Pate.
No, the fourth round belonged to the Yank and the Brit. Strange birdied the par-3 7th to tie Faldo, and then birdied the 10th to take the lead. The gyrations were all Strange's. Faldo was busy stacking up those perfect little pars, hitting every fairway (he missed only four the first three rounds, and none on Sunday), but making no birdie putts. Faldo tapped in more short ones than Earl Scheib paints Buicks.
Strange held that one-stroke lead until Faldo finally dropped a six-footer for birdie on the easy 15th. Tied again.
Now the fans started to get wild—not as crazy as on the 12th, though, when Strange had asked police to remove a fan named Charles Abdennour, nicknamed Kodiak, who had allegedly harassed Strange and other players before. (Abdennour reportedly has claimed to be Jesus Christ, Nicklaus's adopted son and Nicklaus's dog.) USGA officials later reported that Abdennour had been thrown off the course one other day during the week. With Abdennour gone—he was arrested for disorderly conduct and trespassing—the crowd was on to new passions. "Beat L.A.! Beat LA.!" they chanted at the 18th, urging on Detroit in the sixth game of the NBA Finals, which many were following on portable radios. And beginning on 16, after each shot was struck, the mob broke through the ropes and swarmed past the players to ring the fairway or the green. The question wasn't which player was going to win, but which was going to become a human welcome mat. "I guess the Red Sox must be out of town," Strange said.
Through all of this, it was still easy to find the two players' wives. They watched all the holes together. Fast friends they were, and when they realized there would be a playoff, Sarah Strange turned to Gill Faldo and said, "We're out of clothes. Do you have any shorts I can borrow for tomorrow?" She didn't.
It was Nick's shorts that looked cooked when the husbands came to the par-3 16th. Strange's six-iron bad-hopped across the putting surface and ended in the greenside rough, and Faldo's was miserably bunkered against the brooding lip of a trap. Strange pitched poorly and left himself 25 feet short. Faldo sandblasted far past the pin. But then Strange did something amazing. He holed his putt. You could have heard the roar in Providence. Just your typical par. Except that it appeared to have just won him his dreamed-for Open championship and the respect he wanted. When Faldo two-putted, the tournament was Strange's for the pocketing.