Twenty-five years after his 1989 PGA Championship meltdown, Mike “Radar” Reid still wonders what might have been

August 7, 2014

Mike Reid won the 1988 World Series of Golf when Tom Watson missed a 30-inch putt. At the 1989 Masters, Reid held a one-shot lead on Sunday, but he three-putted 14 and hit his third shot into the water at 15 to finish sixth.

Of course there are shockers, and then there are shockers, like Greg Norman at Augusta (1996 Masters), Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie (1999 British Open), and Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot (2006 U.S. Open). Major meltdowns, all. Call it the Triple Frown. Reid at Kemper Lakes (1989 PGA), on the other hand, rarely gets a mention.

Reid, a soft-spoken family man out of BYU, had a two-shot lead when he arrived at 16, then lost his drive to the right and into the water. "I pushed the tee shot," he admits, "and the wind caught it."

He would eventually make a 15-foot sidehill putt for bogey to keep a one-shot lead.

His tee shot at the par-3 17th wasn't terrible. It hit the green, in fact, but then kept going — all the way into the woolly back fringe. "I've never seen fringe like that," says Reid, now 60. "I'd developed a shot that was like a sand shot, but unfortunately, I quit on it."

The shot came up woefully short, leaving Reid with roughly 15 feet for par, and he proceeded to miss the putt, his ball racing some three feet past the hole. "I turned around," says his then caddie, Chuck Mohr, "because he usually marks those, but when I looked back I saw that he had started his routine to finish the putt. I wanted to stop him, but it was too late." Says Reid, "I was just too keyed up to get the hole behind me."

Reid's bogey putt horseshoed around the hole and came out. He'd lost three shots in a span of 15 minutes.

"I'm one down now, aren't I?" he said, walking to 18.

"Yeah," Mohr said, "but you can birdie this hole."

Reenergized, Reid striped his drive down the fairway. He laced his approach to seven feet from the pin — then missed the birdie try. It was over; Payne Stewart walked away with the Wanamaker.

Reaction was swift, beginning with Jack Nicklaus consoling Reid in the locker room, the Golden Bear saying he'd never felt so bad for anyone in his life. Reid would get fan mail, including a letter from a man in Scotland. "He was watching it in the middle of the night in a pub," Reid says, "and he fell off a barstool and injured his hip really badly. He wrote, 'I feel your pain.' It was funny — although maybe not for him."

Mohr says the two never talked about the loss. Reid bounced back to win the 1990 Casio World Open in Japan, but they split soon after.

Reid would win the 2005 Senior PGA and the 2009 Jeld-Wen, but calls senior majors "not remotely on the same par" as regular majors. He says he's happy. He plays full-time on the Champions Tour, has moved from Utah to Maryland, and spends his free time visiting historic sites and museums.

"I thought it was a stepping stone," he says. "It seemed like a lot of great players had stumbled trying to win a major and learned from it. But that was my chance. That summer came and left, and it passed me like a stranger in the crowd." And if he could have one shot back? "It would be the second shot at 17. In that situation, around the green under pressure, I learned what a lot of guys learn: It's good to get the ball on the ground as fast as possible."

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