The Sprint International is known as the Tour stop where every
need is anticipated and every accommodation made, and where
pampered pros actually notice the effort. But the tournament
outdid itself on Sunday, arranging for a gleaming rainbow over
Castle Pines Golf Club near Denver just as 38-year-old Clarence
Rose made a 30-foot eagle putt to win. There was no doubt in his
mind as to the location of the rainbow's end. "There it is,
right there on the 17th green!" he shouted later, during the
awards ceremony, pointing to the place where he had made two
eagles that day, the first to take the lead in regulation and
the second to beat Brad Faxon on the third hole of a
The 17th has always been magic at Castle Pines. Really a stout
(492 yards) par-4 masquerading as a par-5 in the thin Rocky
Mountain air, the hole usually has the leader board spinning as
the contenders make eagles (20 last week) and birdies (200) that
under the Stableford scoring system employed in the
tournament--8 for double eagle, 5 for eagle, 2 for birdie, 0 for
par, minus one for bogey, minus 3 for anything worse--can push a
player to the top at the drop of a putt.
Rose had experienced the phenomenon before. In 1989 he shook
nervously over an eagle putt at the 17th that, had he holed it,
would have given him a victory over Greg Norman and his first
tournament win. Rose missed, and that miss, like black magic,
changed everything. Inches away from a career-confirming
victory, the bottom fell out. Rose sank so fast the following
season that by the time the Tour returned to Castle Pines, he
had made only eight cuts in 27 starts. Meanwhile, his wife, Jan,
was five months pregnant, and their 18-month-old son, Clark, was
about to endure a serious medical crisis. Jan broke the news to
Clarence just after he had missed yet another cut: Tests had
confirmed testicular cancer. "Things were more awful than you
could imagine," says Jan. "We were in a deep fog."
When Rose flew home to Goldsboro, N.C., he effectively left
competitive golf behind. "I wasn't playing too well anyway, just
going through the motions," he says. "And what happened to Clark
put golf way back in my priorities. Golf didn't mean that much
anymore." Clark's malignant tumor was removed, and there has
been no recurrence of the cancer. Rose lost his Tour card a
couple of months later, and with the birth of Allison that
December, he went on a lengthy sabbatical that included more
babysitting than golf. Over the next four years Rose played in
18 Tour events and earned less than $30,000 (putting his career
earnings at about $1.2 million).
Nonetheless, Rose enjoyed his time at home and never doubted
that he would someday play again. "I didn't spend my money," he
says. "When I made it, I pretty much kept it, so I had a little
nest egg and didn't have to go find a job, though by the fourth
year it was looking as though I'd better do something."
In 1995 Jan finally pushed her reluctant husband out of the
house and onto the Nike tour. That was tough to take. "I'd been
on the PGA Tour for 10 years," Rose says, "and it's like a major
league player going down to Triple A. Your feelings are hurt a
bit, but you have to stay sharp. The young players on the Nike
tour shoot low and don't care who you are."
Rose was starting over again, putting in all the miles but with
none of the glamour. He and Jan, kids in tow, traveled the Nike
tour in a Dodge Caravan. "That year was our reawakening," says
Jan. "Being together day in and day out in such close quarters,
making those daylong drives, we all started smiling again."
In some ways it was 1982 all over again, the year Rose, fresh
from a successful Q school and newly married, set out with Jan
to begin their life on Tour. But back then they had driven all
of 45 minutes from Goldsboro when Rose had to pull the car over
so they could have a good cry. "We had never been away from home
before," says Jan.
The debut of the Roses on Tour was distinctive for its lack of
sophistication. "We were embarrassing," says Jan, laughing at
"My wife and I were starstruck," Clarence says. "We were walking
along getting autographs--Tom Watson, Hubert Green--taking
pictures and having a good time. I said, 'Hey, Hubie, come on
over for a picture.' He set me straight right quick: 'My name is
Hubert. My friends call me Hubert.'"
Rose played well. He was never a star, but he was second six
times and got as high as 44th on the money list. Last year he
had a similar kind of season--never winning but finishing a
solid 21st on the Nike tour money list, then earning a ticket
back to the big show by placing 17th at December's Q school.
The lessons Rose learned in the minors served him well at Castle
Pines. He played the closing holes of the International
prudently, going for the pin only at the 17th. And this time he
didn't let his nerves get the better of him. In regulation he
knocked in a 15-footer for eagle to edge a point ahead of Bob
Tway, who had eagled the same hole earlier to take the lead with
30 points. "All I could think about," Rose said, "was what my
dad had always told me: 'When you get nervous, don't swing easy
and try to guide the ball. Just swing hard.'"
Faxon, who had led the 24 players who survived the tournament's
double cut and advanced to the final round, reached the 17th
with 29 points and his own chance to win with an eagle. But his
60-foot putt, about the same length as the one he had made for
eagle on the 72nd hole of the Hawaiian Open in February to force
a playoff with Jim Furyk, just missed. The tap-in 4 was worth
two points and a tie at 31 with Rose.
During the playoff Faxon--whose last win on Tour was in this
event in 1992--was gratified to see his friends Billy Andrade
and Davis Love III walking along in support. Faxon, needing to
win to get into the World Series of Golf and onto the Presidents
Cup team, remembered Love's win last year in sudden death in New
Orleans to earn the last spot in the Masters. He also thought
back to his performance in the '95 PGA, when his record-tying 63
in the final round got him onto the Ryder Cup team.
Unfortunately for Faxon, Rose ended the playoff on the third
extra hole, just as Furyk had done to him in Honolulu. "I needed
to win," said Faxon after his third second-place finish of the
year. "I had to win this tournament." The top 10 on the points
list receive automatic spots on the Presidents Cup team, and
U.S. captain Arnold Palmer says he will make the 11th and 12th
players on the list his wild-card selections. No matter what
happens this week, Faxon can finish no better than 13th.
When the anger passes, and there is much to dissipate, Faxon can
take solace in the fact that he began the week believing "there
was nobody on Tour hitting it worse than me." With the upper and
lower parts of his body out of sync, Faxon turned to Ken Venturi
and Castle Pines teaching pro Kevin Walker for help on
Wednesday. And there was further stress during the first two
rounds of the tournament as Faxon set off in a threesome with
Love and Scott Hoch, the player Faxon and Love castigated for
skipping the British Open.
Yet by Saturday evening Faxon had the lead, and on Sunday he was
never further than a birdie out of it. "I feel like I did so
many good things," he said afterward. "I played well and kept
fighting in the playoff. But Clarence made eagle on 17 twice;
hats off to Clarence. You'd much rather win, though."
No one knew that better than Rose. "Shoot, there's nothing like
being a win-ner," he said. "Second's great, but being the bride
is a whole lot better."