Deane Beman was standing in the driveway of his Sawgrass home last week, a sentimental tear in his eye. His baby, the Tournament Players Championship, a wandering, renegade waif in its infancy, later criticized as unmanageable and unfair, then grown and settled into the Tournament Players Club, had finally nudged its way into the major league section of the record book. Now the commissioner of the PGA Tour won't have to leave his porch light on at night.
What Calvin Peete did in the TPC at the TPC in Ponte Vedra, Fla. was not merely win a tournament for a lot of money against the best field that will tee off all the year on one of the most unrelenting, terrorizing courses the pros play. No, as the implacable Peete tightrope-walked over the dark lagoons, threaded his way through the pine and palm trees, and figured a way to putt on greens that had the consistency of burnt toast, it became clear that this performance, in this setting, made the TPC worthy of recognition as a major championship, precisely what Beman had sought when he established the tournament in 1974.
Midway through the final round Sunday, Beman recognized that something special was happening as he trailed along in Peete's gallery. Peete, 41, one of 19 children, a man who had never touched a club until he was 23, shook off an official's warning for slow play and put the finishing touches on a masterful performance, shooting a six-under-par 66.
His splendor over the TPC's 6,857 yards produced eight birdies and stunned Hale Irwin and D.A. Weibring, who began the day tied with Peete for the lead. All told, the new champion missed only two shots all day, both drives. On the 10th hole he hit into the trees to the right, and at the 15th he found a waste bunker. Both times, Peete saved par, hitting a seven-iron through the foliage at the 10th and making a nine-foot putt on 15. If there were any doubters, Peete took care of them at the 17th, the 132-yard par-3 that is surrounded by water. There Peete jammed an eight-iron four feet and made the birdie.
"I thought if I shot under par on the back nine I could win," shrugged Weibring, who fired a 32—four under—coming home. "I did what I wanted and still lost by three shots. That tells you something about the way Cal played."
Peete's rounds of 70-69-69-66-274 put him 14 under par, as he smashed the '84 record of Fred Couples by three shots.
You must drive the ball straight on this Pete Dye design that popularized the term "target golf and you must hit the greens, or there's a price to pay. With his weak grip and slow backswing, Peete does that better than anyone. He is acknowledged as the best player tee to green over the past several seasons. In 1984 Peete won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average (70.56), and since 1982 no one on the PGA Tour has matched his nine victories. By comparison, Tom Watson has taken eight titles in the same period.
For Peete, Sunday's victory was special. True, the $162,000—almost 100 grand more than he made in his first three years on tour—was a nice reward for someone who, by his own estimation, would be toiling in a Florida sugar mill were it not for golf. But what really was on Peete's mind was prestige. Leaving the final green, he said to his wife, Christine, "We finally won a major."
And off to the side, Peete's 70-year-old father, Dennis, was wearing a hat with this inscription:
3 BIGGEST LIES
THE CHECK IS IN THE MAIL
I LOVE YOU
I'LL BE HOME AT 5:00