Call it fate or science, Verplank's win was a dream come true

Thursday, something funny happened to his shoulder. It quit hurting.

"It just went away," Verplank said. His eyes got wide and glazed as he said it and realized what he was implying. "I didn't feel any pain," he said. "I've been struggling with it severely, I haven't said anything. It didn't bother me one bit."

His eyes still held that look of amazement. If there was a higher power at work, they said, this was the proof. If not, there were always Verplank's scores. The man who hadn't cracked 70 in 11 straight rounds shot in the 60s all four days — 67, 68, 66 and, when it mattered most, another 66.

In fairness to the other side of the science-versus-religion debate, Verplank did make one change. He has long played graphite shafts in his irons, which have a softer feel and cause less wear and tear on his formerly troublesome elbows. Few other Tour players use graphite-shafted irons.

Wednesday, on a whim or a hunch (or fate, right, Byron?), he put steel shafts in his irons. He noticed a difference immediately. "I hit the ball at the hole all week," Verplank said. "I haven't done that for a year."

Not much else went right at the Nelson until the finish. Byron wasn't there. Neither was Tiger Woods, who took a pass. Neither were most of the world's best players — only two of the top 10 showed up. The Nelson's new April date falls when most top players want time off before they start prepping for the Players Championship and the U.S. Open.

On top of that, the greens at the TPC Four Seasons Resort were some of the worst the Tour players have seen in a decade. On Saturday, when local sports fans in Big D were buzzing over the Cowboys' wheeling and dealing with the Cleveland Browns, Tour players at the Nelson were still whining about the Dallas browns — what was left of the TPC's greens.

A litany of excuses was offered, but mainly, the greens were old and weary. Plans have been made to re-do them, and to redesign the course under the watchful eye of D.A. Weibring, the former Tour player who has become a praiseworthy designer. The work will start immediately.

"We should not have greens like this at a PGA Tour event," former PGA champion Rich Beem said bluntly early in the week.

It was all going wrong, terribly wrong. And then Sunday, Byron's protege finally landed his marlin, the tournament he'd been trying to catch for years. There were disappointments. He lost a playoff to Robert Damron in 2001. He was fourth in '03 and sixth in '05.

This time, Verplank got it right, and in many ways, saved what is one of the Tour's most successful tournaments.

Let's all look up and say it together — thank you.

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