SI Vault
Rick Reilly
August 23, 1993
After years of frustration in the majors, Paul Azinger—helped by a familiar-looking caddie—won the PGA in sudden death over (who else?) Greg Norman
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August 23, 1993


After years of frustration in the majors, Paul Azinger—helped by a familiar-looking caddie—won the PGA in sudden death over (who else?) Greg Norman

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Boy, Greg Norman had seen that face somewhere before. But where?

Ah, forget it. Don't even think about it. Standing here on the 18th tee, the first playoff hole of the PGA Championship at Inverness, with the guy in the blue blazer holding out the two draw numbers, his hand trembling like a paint shaker, there was plenty not to think about.

Norman didn't want to think about how seven years ago he had stood here in Toledo on a Sunday, tied for the lead in the PGA. Same course. Same tee box. Stood here with Bob Tway. Played the hole just the way it says on the course map, looking for a sure two-putt par. Good enough, especially with Tway in jail in the front trap. But then Tway went and did something stupid like make history, holing the thing from San Quentin and sending Norman on a string of buzzard's luck that would make a Zen master kick a hole in a wall.

Still, can't think about it. Norman had told the press at the beginning of the week that he was done discussing 1986. The statute of limitations had expired. He was a new man, fresh from his greatest victory, a month ago at the British Open. Everything else was yesterday.

"When you win today," some man told Norman as he stepped out of his car Sunday morning, "I want you to take your hat and throw it in that bunker. You throw it in the same exact spot where Tway made that shot." Norman smiled and thought to himself, Not a bad idea.

And now maybe he was trying not to think of that and trying not to think of all the hell he'd gone through already today just trying to get to this tee box. Pulled himself out of the grave he'd dug on the front nine. (Cripes, he'd taken two to get out of a bunker on the 6th hole, just like your basic Toledo cab driver, for a very lovely double bogey.) Coming back from three shots down, half punky from the flu, and birdieing his way past no less than Nick Faldo and Tom Watson and Hale Irwin to tie the unbreakable bean pole next to him, Paul Azinger.

You think the blue blazer was nervous, you should have seen Azinger, who was wondering who had shut off the town's oxygen supply. His lungs wouldn't compress, his fingers tingled, his head was throbbing, and his heart was about to throw a rod. It was beating like a hummingbird's, and every time it did, flashbulbs popped in front of his eyes. He had spent the day trying to remind himself to do his breathing exercises. Inhale. Count four. Exhale. Count four. Here he was, on the rim of the biggest tournament of his life, and he's running a Lamaze clinic.

Try not to think about what lay before Azinger—a chance to win his first major after 10 years on the Tour and so many disappointments. Bogeying the last hole at the 1987 British Open to lose to Faldo. Falling back on the last nine of half a dozen other majors. Wondering if he would someday try to get out of bed only to find a 5,000-pound Potential lying on his chest. "I wondered if I'd ever be able to do it," Azinger said later. "I really wondered if I was capable."

Look at all the other hopers and dreamers and schemers who had crashed around Azinger on the way to this tee box. There was Faldo, who had played flawless, bogeyless, seamless golf, who had shot his third 68 of the tournament and lost by a shot. That's two straight major Sundays Faldo has started in the hunt, shot 68 or better and lost. Maybe his mother was right. Should have gone into the theater.

There was 43-year-old Tom Watson, the American Ryder Cup captain, who came to the 95% humidity of In-Furnace smoking his golf ball as he had at no time in the last 15 years. Captain Crunch he was again—and a sentimental choice. In his brilliant career he'd never won a PGA. If he could, he would become only the fifth man in history to pull off the Career Grand Slam and would end the longest dry gulch of his life, six years. "This would be the biggest victory of my career," Watson kept declaring. "I may not get another chance like this."

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