After leaving spike marks all over his would-be peers in 2000 and 2001, Tiger Woods needed some pushback. Rich Beem gave it to him. As Woods made four straight back-nine birdies at the 2002 PGA at Hazeltine, the Beemer swilled Pepto and stayed steady to win by one. Beem, now 38, hasn't won a tournament since, slipping to 259th in the world. But as the former cell phone salesman will tell you, you can't have ups without downs.
The thing I remember most about Hazeltine in 2002 is showing up to practice at 7 a.m. Monday and there were already a few thousand people there. When I made the turn there were 20,000 people, and by the time I finished, just before 11, there were 30,000 or 40,000 people. I'd never seen that many people that early.
I knew I had a lead with five holes to go and it was mine to lose, but I never thought about beating Tiger. I had no idea he was making four birdies. He was playing with Fred Funk, who was a fan favorite, so I didn't know who was doing what up there. That I won was what I was most proud of, that I was able to fight off whatever demons I might have. Things might have been a little different if Tiger and I had been playing together. We'll never know. The hardest thing about playing with him is that he's so damn good you just get caught up watching what he's doing.
I did a lot of incredible things that day and found out my best is good enough to beat the best. There's no better feeling than that.
If you stare at it long enough, yeah, it's pretty amazing. But life is what you make of it; if you're satisfied selling car stereos and cell phones, then you'll do that. I went to El Paso Country Club [in Texas] to work as a pro because I didn't know how it was going to happen, but I felt like I had a place in golf.
Show me a guy whose career hasn't been somewhat of a roller-coaster ride and you're going to come up with Tiger. Even Phil's career has been a bit of a roller coaster.
If you don't think the best is yet to come, you'd better think of an exit strategy, that's for damn sure. People can say what they want about my game; I'm playing some of the best golf I have in a long time. I don't know my chances of winning at Hazeltine — probably not much better than the first time around, but that's just the way it is.
Life is good. I'm living in Austin, Texas, I have two beautiful kids, my wife is great. My golf doesn't make me happy or sad anymore. It used to, but not anymore. When I get off the course, it's over with.