Call it fate,
destiny, signs. Whatever. Brett Wetterich is a believer, which is why, after
putting out on the 18th green last Saturday at the EDS Byron Nelson
Championship in Irving, Texas, he was startled by the sound of bagpipes.
"It gave me the chills," he said. � The next morning Wetterich arrived
at the Four Seasons Resort and prepared to tee off in the final threesome with
two young players with impressive r�sum�s, Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman.
Wetterich was shuttled from the clubhouse to the Las Colinas practice range
with Ted Purdy, last year's Nelson winner. Wetterich was spooked after glancing
at Purdy's bag. "It had 2005 champion on the side," Wetterich said.
"It gave me chills again. It felt as if this was going to be my day, and it
Don't doubt fate.
How else do you explain how two thoroughbreds lost to a little-known workhorse?
Scott, second at the Nissan Open in February, was ranked ninth in the world.
Immelman, the runner-up two weeks ago at the Wachovia Championship, was 52nd.
The 32-year-old Wetterich, a late bloomer from Cincinnati who now lives in
Jupiter, Fla., and has played in only one major--the 1998 U.S. Open, in which
he missed the cut--was No. 208. Yet it was Wetterich who performed like a
steely veteran while the stars-in-waiting beat themselves with errant tee shots
and shaky putting.
Don't drop the
other f word, either. (That's f as in fluke.) Yes, Wetterich fits the profile
of the 21st century Tour winner: a big hitter with a so-so short game. "You
know he's going to hit the ball a mile," says Immelman. "He has
shoulders the size of this room." But he also has more game than you'd
expect. In addition to averaging 308.8 yards off the tee (fourth longest on
Tour), Wetterich ranks sixth in greens hit in regulation, second in birdie
average and third in overall ball striking. The question is not, How did he
win? It's, What took him so long? The answer: He doesn't hit his approach shots
particularly close to the hole, and his putting is weak (102nd on Tour). The
fact that he has suddenly started making putts explains his recent surge--a tie
for sixth in Houston, a tie for fourth in New Orleans and his first victory,
worth $1,116,000, at the Nelson.
is simply the latest big hitter to get hot, following in the footsteps of
what-ever-happened-to bashers like Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes. Wetterich
prefers to believe that he was simply fulfilling a promise. His older brother
Mark was killed at age 36 on his way home from work at a Chicago steel plant by
a drunken driver in an auto accident three years ago. As a reminder Brett has
Mark's initials embossed on his golf bag and wears a medallion around his neck
with Mark's fingerprint and the date of his death, 7/8/03. It was the memory of
Mark that had Brett fighting back tears on Sunday on the 18th green after he
had lagged his first putt close and had a tap-in for par and the breakthrough
win. "I imagined Mark looking down and smiling," said Brett. "We
dreamed about doing this together, and that's why I got so emotional. I was
thinking about Mark when I made the last putt. I wish he had been here to see
it. I miss him a lot."
figured to belong to Scott. How do you go 10 under par with a pair of 65s, the
way Scott did last Thursday and Friday, then shoot 140 in easier conditions on
the weekend? By the same token, how do you follow an opening 74 with a
10-birdie 60 that ended with a missed 15-footer for a 59, as Arron Oberholser
did last Friday? "The question of the cosmos," mused Oberholser, who
Scott drove into
the rough a few times too many on Sunday and was ineffective with his
putter--most notably on a four-footer for par on the 10th that horseshoed
around the hole and out. "I couldn't buy a putt," said Scott, who tied
for third with Omar Uresti.
All you need to
know about Wetterich-- who on Sunday trailed Immelman by three at the turn,
then shot a nifty three-under 32 to beat him by a stroke--is how he played the
dangerous 18th hole under pressure. By then ahead by one, Wetterich left his
driver in the bag and hit a souped-up five-wood 310 yards down the fairway,
leaving himself a 143-yard pitching wedge in. Immelman hit a solid drive, but
with too much draw. His shot caromed off the bank and into a water hazard left
of the fairway. Immelman took a drop, then tucked an eight-iron shot close and
made the putt to save par. Wetterich safely flipped his wedge shot 25 feet
right of the hole, lagged his birdie try close and, while holding back the
tears, waited for Scott and Immelman to finish.
Later, at the
awards ceremony, Wetterich stood next to 94-year-old tournament host Byron
Nelson, accepted the winner's trophy and posed for pictures. They were two Hall
of Famers hanging out-- Nelson, the legend, and Wetterich, The Cincinnati
Enquirer's 1991 golfer of the year and a January inductee into the Oak Hills
High hall of fame.
After a few
minutes a cart carrying Nelson and his wife, Peggy, drove off across the
adjacent 1st fairway. As Wetterich stood posing with the trophy, a lone
bagpiper dressed in kilts appeared next to the 18th green and began to play.
The pipes sounded mournful, yet somehow celebratory. Believers in the crowd
took it as some sort of a sign.