In the strictest terms, a golf tournament produces more losers
at one time than your ordinary, everyday track meet. The effect
is accentuated when a finishing sprint like the one Corey Pavin
put on Sunday at the U.S. Open seems to induce a collective
collapse of all the other challengers. But in broader terms --
the only kind pros should consider if they want to keep their
sanity -- the final day at Shinnecock Hills produced several
This is an article from the June 26, 1995 issue
Despite yet again failing to hold on in the final round of a
major, Greg Norman won because his sheer doggedness in returning
to the hunt is in itself a cause for admiration. Despite
suffering a severe and sudden loss of acuity on the back nine,
Tom Lehman was a winner because his game and unflappable nature
once again proved custom-made for golf's toughest tests. Despite
seeing his virtuoso putting stroke desert him for nearly the
entire final round, Phil Mickelson won because he learned a
little more about how to deal with the unique nervousness of an
Open. And despite suffering the most deflating finish of all the
contenders, Davis Love III won because, for the second straight
time in a major championship, he conquered what had been a
career-long inability to perform at his best in those events.
"At least now I know I can win these things,'' said Love, who
was second at the Masters and tied for fourth Sunday after
missing a three-footer to tie for the lead on the 70th hole and
making a double bogey on the 72nd. "I just haven't put
everything together. But it was nice to be two or three holes
from winning the tournament. I feel very confident I can win at
the British Open."
However, besides Pavin, the biggest winner at Shinnecock was a
lanky, unobtrusive veteran who finished five strokes back in a
tie for 10th -- Bob Tway. Very simply, no performance in the
entire championship represented such a triumphant comeback as
Tway's return from the absolute depths of the professional game
to the brink of major-title-winning form. Considering that for
the previous three seasons he has stepped up to most drives
wondering if he would scatter galleries on the left or on the
right, the 36-year-old Tway exhibited big-time control on an
Open course where a mistake off the tee almost guaranteed a
bogey or worse.
In putting together a score of 69-69-72-75-285, Tway arguably
played the steadiest golf of anyone in the field, hitting 46
greens in regulation to tie for the lead in that category with
Tom Watson. Tway's biggest shortcoming was an inability to
convert his opportunities. He notched only six birdies over four
rounds, a total fewer than all but four of the 73 finishers.
Actually, Tway's real Waterloo was the last five holes in the
final round. He made four bogeys in that closing stretch to
nearly obscure a remarkable performance. Now, only historians
will remember that Tway was tied for the lead going into the
final nine holes and that he had a seven-footer for birdie on
the 12th that could have put him atop the leader board by himself.
"Yeah, that leaves a bad taste in your mouth," said Tway, but
with no perceptible sourness. "I didn't really expect to win the
tournament. I have to feel good, coming from where I've been the
last few years." Where he has been is in golf hell, at least
until he pulled off a tear-jerking victory in April at Hilton
For two of the last three seasons, he has had to live off the
10-year exemption he earned when he holed out from the 18th-hole
bunker to defeat Norman at the 1986 PGA Championship. "If you
had told me nine years ago I would have had to rely on that
title, I'd have never believed it,'' said Tway, who won three
additional tournaments in 1986. "I thought I was on an upward
In fact, Tway was in the middle of that curve precisely nine
years ago when he arrived at the 1986 Open at Shinnecock as the
hottest young player in the game. After three All-America
seasons at Oklahoma State, Tway had turned pro and toiled for
three more years on mini-tours and in Asia before finally
joining the PGA Tour in 1985. In his second year the 6'4" Tway
found a groove with his stylish swing. He won early, at San
Diego, and the week before the Open, at Westchester. In the
first round at Shinnecock in '86, Tway took the lead with a 70
on one of the most inclement days in the championship's history.
After the third round, in which Tway finished only two strokes
out of the lead, Lee Trevino turned to a group of reporters in
the locker room and said, pointing at Tway, "If you're looking
for the next superstar, there he is. That guy can golf his ball."
In the final round, with 11 holes to go, Tway was one of nine
players tied for the lead at one under par. At that point he got
overwhelmed by the moment and came home in 39 to finish tied for
eighth. The next week in Atlanta, though, Tway won again, and
when he got in the hunt at the PGA at Inverness, he held
together until his climactic shot scurried into the cup. But
even as he jumped up and down in that bunker four times, and
TWAY'S TWOOPS T-shirts began being printed, his troubles were
starting. Like so many players, including Hal Sutton, Payne
Stewart and even Norman, Tway was to lose himself in the
labyrinth of swing theory.
"After the PGA, I wanted to see if I could win more majors,"
says Tway. "In the pursuit of getting better, I got worse. I
tried to make some changes in my swing that didn't suit me, and
I got far too technical. The other problem was expectations. You
can't expect to win three tournaments and a major every year.
It's not that easy. When I didn't, I got frustrated. I didn't
handle it the way I should have."
Although Tway didn't immediately turn into chopped liver, he did
stop winning. His next victory didn't come until the 1989
Memorial, only a month after he started to work with swing
instructor David Leadbetter. "Lead was great in terms of showing
me what I needed to improve,'' says Tway. "But long term, I just
wasn't able to take his mechanical thoughts and turn them into a
feeling. That's what you have to do. That's what Nick Faldo is
able to do. Take a thought and turn it into a feeling.''
Instead, Tway was beginning to lose his confidence. He did win
again the next year at Las Vegas, but it marked the end of any
improvement in his game. In 1992, he fell off the end of the
world, dropping to 179th on the money list. The next year he was
109th, then fell again to 146th last year. During much of the
three-year crash, Tway, normally a longer-than-average hitter,
was near the bottom of the Tour in both driving distance and
"I made a mockery of the game," he says. "I was driving the ball
so awful I couldn't play. I guess I had the driving yips. I
didn't know if I was going to drive it right or left, I just
kind of knew it wasn't going straight. It was embarrassing. The
only thing that kept me going was the thought that I had once
played the game at a level that was good, and that maybe I could
again. That, and that I discovered I love playing golf.''
When he hit bottom in late 1993, Tway consulted with his college
coach and close friend, Mike Holder. The timing was right,
because Holder, despite having coached Oklahoma State to six
NCAA titles, was reassessing his approach to the development of
good young players. What troubled him most was the fact that the
three best players he had ever had, Tway, Willie Wood and Scott
Verplank, had all had erratic pro careers in which they had been
plagued by an obsession with mechanics.
"I take the blame for that,'' says Holder, who earlier this
month led his team to another national title. "At the time, I
was trying to understand the golf swing better in order to be a
better coach. But I thought if a little bit of advice was good,
a lot must be better, and I went a little bit overboard. I left
them with the impression that the secret to playing better in
the long run is to continue getting better technically. That
approach causes you to lose sight of what made you a good player
to begin with, which is yourself. Everybody who went from
Oklahoma State to the Tour during that period ended up suffering
from the same lack of confidence and self-esteem. They seemed to
need to ask others how to get better or to find out what was
wrong. But that was the direction I sent them in. I wish I could
get those same players and start over."
Holder's revamped approach was precisely what Tway needed to
hear. Ridding his mind of clutter, he began to feel the
beginnings of comfort again on the golf course. "Coach and I
have kind of gone full circle in our thoughts about the golf
swing," says Tway. "I had tried a connect-the-dots approach, and
that wasn't me. I had thought I was a mechanical player, but the
more mechanical I got, the less feel I had. I kept trying to get
the club in these positions I knew were good, I just couldn't do
it by placing the club there. When I stopped thinking about it,
the club started going in those positions."
While Tway began to feel more comfortable on the golf course, he
had to wait for more than two years worth of mental scar tissue
to heal. "My game had undergone a slow deterioration, and it
required a slow rebuilding," he says. "Your confidence is such a
major part in this whole affair, and my confidence was shot. I
didn't realize how much confidence meant until I didn't have any."
Tway started to show signs of a resurgence with a couple of
top-25 finishes late in 1994, and he began this year solidly
with a tie for sixth at Tucson. He missed only one cut in the
next eight tournaments leading up to Hilton Head. Seemingly out
of contention there on Sunday, Tway capped a rally by holing a
30-yard pitch for a birdie on the 71st hole to get into a
playoff with David Frost and Nolan Henke. When he won with a par
on the second extra hole, the man who in the '80s had been
dubbed Dial Tone for his shy, colorless answers to the press,
couldn't hold back his tears.
"Winning Hilton Head was the most gratifying thing I've ever
done," says Tway now. "It felt better and meant more than the
So, finally, did his performance at Shinnecock. Tway had gotten
into the championship through sectional qualifying in Columbus,
Ohio. Once he arrived in the Hamptons, he felt positive
vibrations and a vague sense of daje vu. He opened with two 69s
to trail Norman by three strokes but reacted like a man who had
learned some hard lessons about expectations. "I really have no
thoughts of winning the Open," he said last Friday. "Ask me on
the back nine on Sunday."
Tway started the final round one stroke behind Norman and Lehman
and made the turn at even par to share the lead. At that point,
if someone had asked, the candid Tway might have admitted that
he couldn't help getting a little greedy. On the serpentine
409-yard, par-4 10th hole, Tway missed the green with his
approach and then missed a three-foot putt for par. After he
failed to convert his birdie chance at 12, Tway bogeyed the 14th
to drop two behind. Although he felt more calm than he had at
the same stage in 1986, Tway bogeyed the final three holes.
If he was disappointed, he did a wonderful job of hiding it.
After signing autographs outside the locker room, he joked about
his back-nine 40. "When I made the turn, I remembered the
similarity to 1986 and thought, You have a chance to win again
if you play good and solid," he said. "But I played the same
way. So much for experience."
But then Tway took that healthy broad view. "Actually, I was
really surprised at how good I felt," he said. "I don't have a
mechanical thought in my body right now. Steady head, balance
and rhythm are the only three thoughts I have."
Except, that is, for one overriding thought. "After playing so
poorly, it just felt great to be out here again," he said. "My
philosophy was to start at the very bottom and take a lot of
baby steps, but this was a bigger one. I'm not saying I'm all
the way back. Even if I get there, it will be to a different
Spoken like a winner.