ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Sean O’Hair was in no rush to hit his approach to the 18th green in the final round at Bay Hill. With sunlight fading quickly, he and caddie Paul Tesori realized that one way or another, this would be the last hole of the day.
Tiger Woods wound up making a 15-foot birdie putt, and the tournament was over.
Nick Faldo was in a similar situation involving daylight, but with far more pressure – not only because of the stakes, but because of the location. This is the 20-year anniversary of his first Masters victory, one that nearly led to a conversation that Faldo did not want to have.
The Masters typically ends at 7 p.m., leaving little time for extra holes. The sudden-death playoff almost ended at No. 10, but Scott Hoch missed a 3-foot par putt, sending them to the 11th hole.
Faldo drove it well to the right, got relief from a drain, had a 3-iron to one of the scariest greens in golf.
“One of the best 3-irons I’ve ever hit in my life,” he said in a recent interview. “It was so dark that I didn’t see the ball until I was 60 yards short of the green. I remember telling myself, ‘I’m going to have to be brave here and say, ‘I’m not playing on.’ Imagine telling Augusta that you’re not playing on. That was going to be a big decision.”
How dark was it? Faldo crouched to read the putt, then turned to his caddie, Andy Prodger.
“I said to Prodger, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘All bit of a blur to me, Gov,”‘ Faldo said with a laugh.
He holed the 25-foot birdie putt, and whether they could play another hole was never discussed.
Strangely enough, fast forward 14 years to Doral, where Hoch had a birdie putt just inside 10 feet on the second extra hole of a playoff against Jim Furyk. Hoch declared he couldn’t see, and fans heckled him when play was halted until Monday. Upon returning, Hoch made the birdie putt to continue the playoff, then won on the next hole.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE: William J. Powell, who overcame racial barriers to become the first African-American to design, build own and operate a golf course, will receive this year’s Distinguished Service Award from the PGA of America.
Powell, a 92-year-old life member of the PGA, will be honored Aug. 12 in Minneapolis during the PGA Championship with the group’s highest award. It was created in 1988 and honors leadership, humanitarian qualities, integrity and enthusiasm for golf.
His labor of love is Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio, which Powell began building in 1946. His daughter, Renee Powell, who once played on the LPGA Tour, is the head pro and his son, Larry, is the superintendent.
“This is quite an honor, and it is something I savor due to so many good people in the PGA that made it happen,” Powell said. “I have had so many special things happen to me, I believe, because golf sees no color. It is a game that brings out the best in people and it is vital to young people. Golf means nothing but good. If you can get young people in the game, then they are good for all their lives.”
Powell once described Clearview as “America’s course … a course where the only color that matters is the color of the greens.” The club is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
TOP COURSES: Just in time for the Masters, Golf Digest will release its biennial list of “America’s 100 Greatest Courses,” and for only the second time in 25 years there is a new No. 1 – Augusta National.
The home course of the Masters has replaced Pine Valley atop the list, which is in the May edition of the magazine that hits news stands next Tuesday. Augusta National was at No. 3 two years ago.
Pine Valley is No. 2, followed by Shinnecock Hills, Cypress Point and Oakmont Country Club.
Pebble Beach, the only other course to be ranked No. 1 ahead of Pine Valley, has slipped to No. 6 in the 2009-2010 list, although it remains atop the “Greatest Public Golf Courses” list.
Rounding out the top 10 are Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia, Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, Fishers Island Club in New York and Seminole Golf Club in south Florida.
SHARK EQUIPMENT: Just in time for his return to the Master, Greg Norman has a new equipment deal.
Norman said Tuesday he has joined the staff of TaylorMade Golf Co., agreeing to play its clubs, golf ball, use its golf bag and wear its logo on the inside of his cap. Norman used the TaylorMade TP Red ball when he tied for third at the British Open last year.
“It started with the TP ball, which I played at the Open Championship last year,” Norman said. “I’m pleased that the discussions have evolved to the extent that I am now a member of the TaylorMade staff. TaylorMade’s approach to the game and equipment design is very similar to my own.”
IRISH SHOWDOWN: The present and future of the Emerald Isle will collide after the British Open when three-time major winner Padraig Harrington plays 19-year-old Rory McIlroy at the Lough Erne golf resort.
The inaugural Lough Erne Challenge, to be held July 22, will be stroke play. Organizers are limiting ticket sales to 4,000.
“The fact that two of the most important and exciting figures in world golf are Irish, and both of them are in the world’s top 20, made it compelling to pit them against each other in this special event,” said Jim Treacy, the resort owner.
The Lough Erne Challenge comes five years after the demise of the “Battle at the Bridges,” the made-for-TV event that Tiger Woods played for six years before everyone lost interest.
This event will be filmed by European Tour Productions with a delayed broadcast in 13 countries.
DIVOTS: Tom Lehman has agreed to be honorary chairman for the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open on the Nationwide Tour. Lehman won the tournament 20 years ago when it was part of the Ben Hogan Tour. It is one of four original Nationwide Tour events still on the schedule. … The PGA Tour has donated about $69,000 on behalf of The Presidents Cup to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, which is helping people and communities affected by Australian fires that have killed more than 200 people and destroyed nearly 2,000 homes. The Presidents Cup will be played in Melbourne in 2011.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Sean O’Hair became the 60th player to be a runner-up to Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour.
FINAL WORD: “If I can get anywhere near to where he is, I’ll have done very well.” – Rory McIlroy, on people comparing him with Tiger Woods.