PEBBLE BEACH, Fla. – Ty Tryon's final round at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach on Sunday was a microcosm of his career.
He followed a very good start with a long spell of not-so-good play, interspersed with a few Tour-quality shots, the kind he hit so often when he was the next big thing all those years ago.
As he made birdies on the second and third holes, Tryon was 17 again — fearless, aggressive, hyper-talented. Then he hit driver to try to reach the green on the 318-yard, par-4 fourth hole, but lost his tee shot right. His Callaway whacked a tree and vanished.
Hello, double-bogey, goodbye, rally.
"He needs to get tougher mentally," Tryon's caddie, a local named Rob "Rocket" Lytle said after the round as Tryon signed for an 80 that included three birdies, five bogeys, two double-bogeys and a triple. "Part of it was my fault for letting him hit driver there. I was acting more as a friend than a caddie. He got off to a great start, but we were never the same after that."
It's been a long time since Tryon was famous for having an unlimited future. He was 17 when he got his PGA Tour card, the youngest ever to do so, but ill-prepared for the grind and lasted only one year apiece on both that circuit and the Nationwide tour.
Now 26, with a wife, Hanna, and 3-year-old son, Tyson, Tryon is famous for, take your pick, never panning out, or wasting his talent amid a haze of ambivalence, mononucleosis (for which he got a medical exemption) and a seven-figure endorsement deal.
He knocks around the Southeast trying to Monday-qualify for tournaments that few have ever heard of. He taught for his old coach, David Leadbetter, but liked competing better. And so he went to Rockville, Md., to keep chasing the dream last week.
Tryon shot 64-74 to make it through on the number and drove 3,000 miles with his family to Pebble.
The press ate it up because we love stories about good players gone bad/mad (Ian Baker-Finch, Michael Campbell). It's even better when, having dropped out of sight, they grow a prodigious beard, as Tryon did. But we love it more when they come back (David Duval, Lee Westwood, Tryon this week).
"This means everything to me," Tryon told the San Francisco Chronicle after his opening round here Thursday.
"I just want things to snowball from here," he told the Monterey Herald. "I don't want it to be a fluke."
Give him this: Tryon was trying to the end Sunday. From the fairway bunker on 16, he looked up once, twice, three times and pitched out to the left side of the fairway with a sand wedge. His next shot, also a wedge, caught the slope and trickled 25 feet left of the pin. A two-putt bogey brought him to 20-over, but never did he quick-hit a shot, the way Dustin Johnson did while making a triple-bogey 7 on the second hole Sunday.
You could see that Tryon and Lytle were enjoying the day, awash in sunshine and marred by very little breeze. As they stood on the 17th tee, Westwood walked by on his way to the fourth tee and looked over, perhaps to say hello.
Tryon, though, had his head in his yardage book. The green cleared, and he stung a long iron, low and right-to-left, that was true for all 219 yards to the hole, ending up 20 feet past the pin.
Tiger and the rest of them would be thrilled to have such a shot hours later. Men, women and children spend lifetimes chasing the memory of such shots, and they are partly what make players like Tryon such an enigma. It seems like they have it.
"I think he's got good game," said Kent Jones, the Tour veteran and Tryon's playing partner Sunday. "He hits it pretty far, which is good. If he's willing to work at it, he's got time." Sean O'Hair, one of Tryon's friends from junior golf, has said Tryon is more than sufficiently talented to make it on Tour.
Said Lytle, the caddie, "For maybe a six-hole stretch he can hit it as good as anyone. He's just got some demons, and that's something we talked about out there."
Indeed, for Tryon the other spike always drops. After two-putting for par on 17, he lost his drive on 18 into the asparagus right of the fairway, failed to extricate himself, and, going for too much, tried a hero shot with a wood that soared into the Pacific.
He took a drop, fanned his fifth shot right, chipped over the green, putted out of the rough, past the pin, and tapped in for an 8.
The final numbers for the onetime child prodigy turned cautionary tale turned comeback kid: Tryon shot 75-74-78-80, tied with Mike Weir for 80th place, and made just south of $12,000.
Among those who made the cut, he beat two players, Pablo Martin, the former Oklahoma State golfer who now prowls the Euro tour, and Jason Preeo, who like Tryon was at his first Open.
Tryon blew past an interview request from the Golf Channel and piled into a shuttle behind the scoring trailer. Still despondent as he stood in the parking lot a half hour later, he was in no mood for more media, and you couldn't blame him.
"I'm done," he said as he packed his things into a white SUV courtesy car. He was giving his Toyota 4Runner a break after driving it cross-country. "You can write my final score: 80."
Phil Mickelson had just parked his black Aston Martin nearby and walked onto the driving range to a round of applause. Tryon had to settle up with Lytle before deciding what to do next. He had told the press he planned to look for a place to go cliff diving after the Open was over. It seemed as good a plan as any.