You know something exceptional is happening on the PGA Tour when the winner of a tournament says the best player is really a guy who finished tied for third. Yet that's exactly what happened after Bill Glasson won the Doral Ryder Open on Sunday.
A six-year Tour veteran, Glasson shot 71-65-67-72-275, 13 under par on the famed Blue Monster course at Doral Hotel & Country Club in Miami, to take the rich first prize—$243,000—by one stroke over Fred Couples and three over Mark Calcavecchia, Curtis Strange and Bruce Lietzke. Still, it was Calcavecchia who drew raves from the winner.
"Mark's the best I've ever seen," Glasson said. "He has no weaknesses, and absolutely no fear. He's the one guy out here who has really stepped forward." This from a man who, having just won his third tournament in his last nine starts (he took the Centel Classic and B.C. Open last year), hasn't exactly stayed in the background himself.
Glasson closed out his victory at Doral with a deft into-the-wind approach shot on the treacherous 18th, a par-4 with water on the left side for all 425 yards. The eight-iron was almost too much club; the ball ended up in the back fringe, 25 feet past the hole.
Calcavecchia and Glasson, playing together in the last group, were tied for the lead midway through Sunday's round. Then Calcavecchia, whose first three rounds were 65, 73 and 66, stumbled, bogeying 10 and 11. But he still had a chance to force a playoff with a birdie on the last hole.
"When Bill hit a good shot, it relaxed me," said Calcavecchia. "I thought. O.K., now you've just got to stiff it." But his six-iron from 171 yards fell woefully short into the water. Instead of a birdie, he made a double bogey, which sealed his fate.
Those were expensive strokes, but dollars are only a by-product of why Calcavecchia, 28, is the Tour's man of the moment. No one else has quite the same velvet hammer combination of pedal-to-the-metal swing and petal-soft touch around the green. While most players are just warming up this early in the year. Calcavecchia has gone out and won two tournaments, and come close in two more, making $426,552 in only two months. If you're checking on Calcavecchia's score in the sports-page agate, you can look for the longest last name on the Tour, but it's usually faster to start at the top of the list. No one has more top-10 finishes since 1987.
"I'm disappointed, but no biggie," he said on Sunday night. "This won't hurt my confidence. Sometimes you respond under the pressure, and sometimes you don't. I'll just let it fly at the pin next week. Things are going so good for me."
Calcavecchia has come too far in the last three years to let things get him down now. In 1986 he was a pudgy, immature guy who had lost his PGA Tour playing privileges five times and seemed to have a more secure future as a part-time caddie for his friend Ken Green. Even after he won two tournaments, Calcavecchia's success was attributed by many people to the mysterious powers of the square grooves on his Ping irons.
Those sentiments slowly began to change, and they dissolved completely after last year's Masters, when it took the shot of the year by Sandy Lyle to beat Calcavecchia by one stroke. At year's end, a slimmed-down Calcavecchia had won the Bank of Boston Classic and banked $751,912 in prize money.