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Allen Doyle is
quite the actor. You watch him win a major championship, as he did last week at
the U.S. Senior Open in Hutchinson, Kans., and you find yourself buying into
his my-feet-hurt-and-I-swing-like-a-hacker act. Doyle addresses the ball with
his arms stretched out and his upper body braced for a belly landing--does W.C.
Fields come to mind?--and then he makes that quick, abbreviated slash with the
club that your uncle Elmo, a 22-handicapper, spent a lifetime trying to
correct. "Acting!" as Saturday Night Live's Master Thespian used to
Doyle also has a talent for rewriting scripts. That proved frustrating last week for third-round leader Watson, who was trying to cap his Hall of Fame career by finally winning a pro event on his home turf; for 2005 Senior Open runner-up D.A. Weibring, who was seven under for his first 12 holes on Sunday and briefly held the lead; and for player-of-the-year candidate Loren Roberts, who drew rave reviews last Saturday for his eight-under-par 62. The previous 18-hole scoring record for any USGA open championship, 63, was held by seven golfers, including NBC's Johnny Miller and--can this be right?--Allen (Underdog) Doyle.
However, Doyle is no fan of the Hollywood ending. When he and Watson reached the 14th green on Sunday, the stage was set for a storybook finish. Watson appeared to be a beaten man; he had missed several short putts to cough up his overnight lead, but now he rolled a 24-footer over a ridge and into the hole for birdie, setting off a delirious roar from the partisan crowd. Unperturbed, Doyle sank a four-footer for birdie to maintain his lead. "Nothing silences a crowd, and nothing says more to another player, than when you top them," Doyle said afterward.
Watson was not done fighting, though. On the 71st hole, a 519-yard par-5, he was two strokes behind with only a few hundred yards of dunescape between him and the corral. Watson boldly fired at the elevated green from the fairway with his driver, hoping to get home in two. When that shot whistled low and right, Watson tried to hole a 50-yard wedge from the thick rough below the green. The ball flew high and plopped down two feet from the hole, drawing another roar from the grandstand.
Doyle, whose third shot had stopped 12 feet above the hole, once again answered--and muzzled the crowd--by making his own bending putt for birdie. "He didn't blink," a characteristically stoic Watson said, adding, "I think this will help me. I don't like to do what I did today."
When he tapped in for par on the final hole, Doyle limited his celebration to a single fist pump. He shook hands with Watson, who had finished second in a Senior Open for the third time, and with Roberts, whose final-round 72 had dropped him into an eighth-place tie with Weibring and Jay Haas. Showing that he could stay in character, Doyle stuck with the round-shouldered posture and the barely perceptible limp throughout the trophy ceremony, and when he got to the interview room he sank into a chair, stretched out his legs and said, "Well, that was unbelievable."
But it wasn't, really. Doyle simply made you think it was.