It's been a long
time since the PGA Tour stop in Memphis seemed important. Then came last week's
Last Stop Before the U.S.�Open and unavoidable irony. During a 20-year run
with hometown goliath FedEx as title sponsor, the newly rechristened Stanford
St.�Jude Championship never delivered like this.
There was a great winner. What else can you call Woody Austin, a
self-proclaimed underachiever who shot a brilliant eight-under�62 in the
final round, pulling away with five birdies on the final nine at TPC Southwind
to win by five strokes?
There was a great
enigma. Adam Scott, the marquee name on the leader board, held a three-shot
lead after 54 holes, but as Austin charged, Scott badly blocked his tee shot
into the water at the par-3 14th hole, made a triple bogey and fell apart.
Instead of Scott's cementing his place as the Next Big Thing, we're left
wondering if he isn't the best player not to have won a major, after all.
There was a
Cinderella story. That was in the form of England's Brian Davis, who previously
had only one top�40 finish this year (21st at Atlanta). He had to rush to
Orlando on the Tuesday of tournament week after learning that his wife Julie
and two sons, ages three and 18 months, had been hospitalized because of a gas
leak in their house. The good news: Everyone is fine and they're back home. At
Julie's urging, Davis, 32, flew back to Memphis on Wednesday night and enjoyed
the best week of his career by coming in second. "Golf took a backseat this
week," he said.
Finally, there was
a great soap opera. Are you surprised it involved John Daly? He opened with an
even-par�70, then showed up at the course the next day with what looked
like fresh claw marks on both sides of his face. Daly, who owns a house at
Southwind, said that earlier that day he had filed a complaint with the police
alleging that he was attacked while he slept by his wife, Sherrie, who came at
him with a steak knife shouting, "I will kill you!" Daly, 41 and
playing on a sponsor's exemption, soldiered on despite his unsightly wounds,
shooting a 74 to make the cut on the number. He went 75-79 on the weekend and
finished next to last and had no further comment about the incident. Sherrie,
31, is Daly's fourth wife. In 2006 she served time in prison for money
laundering. They filed for divorce but later reconciled.
was almost as messy. If he had won, he would've jumped past Jim Furyk to third
in the World Ranking. "I played 70 good holes and a couple of bad
ones," said Scott, whose closing 75 dropped him to seventh. "Obviously,
this wasn't what I was looking for."
In the short run,
Austin's resurgence could be significant. His profile is not unlike that of
another player with a homemade swing, 1983 U.S. Open champion Larry Nelson.
Austin, a latecomer to the Tour (he worked as a bank teller and a bartender to
support his golf), is a terrific ball�striker but struggles with his
putting and his confidence. Austin also fights his nerves. "I'm not afraid
to admit that I'm probably the most nervous person who has ever played this
game," he says. It's one of the reasons that, at 43, he still hasn't
realized his full potential.
Austin's strength is his accuracy, and his iron shots were deadly during
Sunday's final nine. Austin has flirted with the lead several times in the
early rounds of past U.S. Opens and sees the event as his best chance "if
I'm ever going to get lucky enough to win a major."
Make a note: If
Oakmont delivers as well as Memphis did, this could be a week to remember.