Even a Hall of Fame career needs a first win. Fred's first was borderline comedy. On that Sunday at Kemper, he was playing with T.C. Chen and Scott Simpson. Not one of them shot better than 76. I never saw marshals work so hard. Every shot was in the gallery. So many things went wrong that the rules officials were camped out with our group. We finished about 90 minutes behind the group in front of us. At one point, CBS is showing a beauty shot of some ducks swimming in a pond on 18 and Ben Wright says something like, "Those chickies were mere eggs at the start of this round."
Barry Jaeckel had downed a handful of Michelobs by the time Fred limped in. Jake never suspected he'd get into a playoff, except he did, a five-man job, courtesy of Fred's 77. Seventy-seven! Why'd Fred blow up? Because he was nervous, that's why. Of course he was nervous. They all get nervous. Even Fred. You're trying to win on Tour for the first time, it's nerve-racking. You're trying to win anytime, it's hard on the nerves. Fred won on the second playoff hole, with a kick-in birdie.
Something changed on that Sunday at Kemper. Congressional is outside Washington, D.C., and the galleries were huge. They loved him. The spotlight had found him, whether he wanted it or not. He's been in it ever since.
The biggest thing about that Kemper win was that he started thinking about himself differently. Up until then he was sort of going around the country, watching ball games and playing golf. After Kemper, he was going around the country, watching ball games, playing golf and knowing he could win. He realized that winning wasn't everything, but it sure was fun. He was 23. Guys didn't win at 23 back then. It took years to learn how to play the Tour.
His second Tour win came about nine months later, in the spring of 1984, at what we called TPC. It was the Players Championship, played on the Stadium course of the Tournament Players Club. Jerry Pate won the first Players there, in '82. Fred played that year and missed the cut. Hal Sutton won the second one, in '83. Fred played that year and missed the cut. This was when the modern Tour was starting to take off.
The wind was blowing most of the week in '84. On the range Fred was teeing up three-woods about 2½ inches high and smashing these shots that went like 25 stories high and landed about 10 feet in front of him. Fred likes to amuse himself.
First round, Fred shoots 71 when the winds were gusting to 45 mph, on a day when there were 64 balls in the water on 17. That 71, in those conditions, was by far the best round he'd ever played there. He comes out the next day, makes a bogey on 1, gives the putter a little fling and says, "That's to show you that yesterday was a fluke." He then played the next 16 holes in 10 under. He made a bogey on the last for 64, a course record then. In 40 years on Tour, I'd say it has to be one of the best rounds I've ever seen.
On Sunday, he's in the last group. He's paired with Watson and Ballesteros. Walking to the 1st tee, Fred says to me, "We're gonna stay out of these guys' way." He doesn't want a lot of chitchat with them. Not with two of the biggest names in the game.
The 1st-tee announcer is introducing Seve and Watson, naming all their British Opens and Masters wins and all that. And then he introduces Fred, winner of the Kemper Open. Fred was in the big time.
He didn't hit a lot of fairways on that Sunday, but he made everything. He got to 17 with a two-shot lead. It's 125 yards, wind in. He hits eight-iron. It's kind of a nervous swing and the hit is not flush, but the ball's dry and he makes his par. He still has the two-shot lead when he comes to 18.