Giving It His Best Shot

Shaun Micheel is on the mend and ready to prove that 2003's Miracle at Oak Hill was no fluke
September 07, 2005

You remember The Shot. Two years ago at Oak Hill, in Rochester, N.Y., Shaun Micheel won the PGA with a 174-yard seven-iron that stopped two inches from the 72nd hole. Since then Micheel, 36, has been dismissed as a one-hit wonder. By June he had tumbled to 158th on the money list. Then tests revealed a problem: low testosterone. Micheel got a hormone boost from a gel he rubs into his shoulder and finished seventh at the Western Open. "Golf was fun again," he says. Now the 2003 champ feels strong enough to get his parking space back from Vijay Singh.

 

HOW TO MAKE HISTORY

It's simple: Hit a career shot in the last group on the last hole of a major. Micheel's PGA-clincher was a 174-yard, seven-iron shot that went 173 yards, two feet and 10 inches. Unable to see the ball on the elevated 18th green at Oak Hill, he listened to the crowd. "They would have cheered a shot six or seven feet away," he says, "but what caught my ear were the groans. Like the sound the crowd makes when a guy misses a putt. Those groans told me I was really close." He glanced at Chad Campbell, with whom he had dueled all day. Campbell smiled as if to say, Where'd that come from?

 

"Be Wrong, Ball!"

While The Shot was in the air, caddie Bob Szczesny talked to the ball. "Be right," he said. Szczesny was violating a Tour superstition--such demands are thought to annoy the golf gods, who'll make the ball do the opposite.

 

WPTHWAM?

Who was the worst player to have won a major since 1995?

Michael Campbell (2005 U.S.)

Todd Hamilton (2004 British)

Mike Weir (2003 Masters)

Ben Curtis (2003 British)

Shaun Micheel (2003 PGA)

Rich Beem (2002 PGA)

Paul Lawrie (1999 British)

Steve Jones (1996 U.S.)

Mark Brooks (1996 PGA)

Vote at SI.com/golf.

 

What Ever Happened to Micheel?

Micheel thinks he overanalyzed his swing during his struggles this year. "I started tinkering," he says. "I had the club a little laid off at the top, which made it point left halfway down, which made me get steep and cut across at impact. We call that 'wiping the ball.' The shot goes right and short. I'd try to correct it and pull the next one. Pretty soon I was lost. It's a weird feeling--standing in the fairway, looking at a pin in the middle of the green and not knowing where to aim!" When his buddy Tommy Thayer, the Kiss guitarist, asked why he was missing cuts, Micheel said, "Tommy, imagine you're playing Detroit Rock City and you have to think of the positions of your fingers on every note. You couldn't perform."

Neither could Micheel, until he remembered what he liked about golf: "Playing," he says. "Working your way around the course, enjoying the challenge. Since then I've spent less time on the range, worried less and played better."

 

GRIP IT & PICK IT

Micheel rates the PGA Tour guitarists

Peter Jacobsen: "Peter might be the best. He plays some silly, funny stuff, but he's a real musician."

John Daly: "He's serious about it. He likes to play country and western, mostly, but he can do anything."

Shaun Micheel: "I've only had two lessons, but I'm learning. My friend Tommy Thayer, who plays for Kiss, is helping me. I can play Rock 'n' Roll All Night all the way through, if I don't have to play it fast."

 

"Tiger's so great that he wins in spite of all the demands on his time-- being Number 1 and a married man now, and maybe trying to get a family started."

 

IT ADD$ UP

Travel ...................................$4,500

$2,000 for his share of a private-jet trip; $2,500 in airfare for his wife, Stephanie, and their 21-month-old son, Dade

Lodging ................................$3,500

The Micheels will rent a four-bedroom house a mile from Baltusrol

Caddie ...................................$1,250

That's if Micheel misses the cut. Otherwise, Tony Lingard will get the usual 5% / 7% / 10%. (5% of Micheel's winnings if he makes the cut, 7% for a top 10 and 10% for a win.)

Food .........................................$500

Tips ..........................................$200

Locker ......................................$100

TOTAL ................................$10,050

"That's twice what an average week costs," says Micheel, who spends about $150,000 a year on Tour.

 

STRINGS ATTACHED

Like the Masters, each PGA throws a pretournament dinner for former champions. The defending champ, who plays host, must come up with a gift for his predecessors. Micheel, a headbanger-rock fan, commissioned more than two dozen black Gibson Epiphone electric guitars for last year's dinner at Whistling Straits.

"I'm always asking Tiger if he has learned to play his guitar," says Micheel. "He smiles and shakes his head."

PGA Champions' Dinner Gifts

Vijay Singh (2005) TBA

Shaun Micheel (2004) Gibson electric guitar

Rich Beem (2003) Ostrich-skin cowboy boots

David Toms (2002) Alligator-skin belt

Tiger Woods (2001) Personalized humidor

Tiger Woods (2000) Clock showing the time at Augusta, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Valhalla

 

GRADING THE VENUES

Micheel has played in only two PGA Championships--he won his debut--and says he's no expert on upcoming PGA venues. Give him high marks for playing along with our grading game

Oak Hill (2003): "One of my favorite places. What great memories! Oak Hill played tough, with seven- to eight-inch rough--almost a U.S. Open setup, which is the direction the PGA has been going. Could I hit another shot like The Shot? Give me enough tries and I'd hit one to a foot. But two inches? That might take forever." GRADE: A+

Whistling Straits (2004): "Unique. Scotland in Wisconsin. When they grow the rough and the wind blows off the lake, it can kill you. The course intimidated me. I shot 77 the first round, then 68-70-71 to finish 24th--tied with Chad Campbell! Chad said, 'I still can't beat you at this tournament.'" GRADE: B

Baltusrol (2005): "I haven't played there, but Vijay told me it's going to be loooong. The 17th hole was already 630 yards, and they've added 20. We'll all have to plod our way around, stay out of the rough, try not to do anything stupid." GRADE: INC.

Medinah (2006): "I don't know anything about it, except that I'll get to use the champions' locker room." GRADE: INC.

Southern Hills (2007): "When we played the U.S. Open there in '01, it was a great course with a ridiculous finishing hole. I was nine over for the tournament, five over on that hole. That 18th green was one of the worst ever--one day I was five feet over that green in two and made a 7. But I hear they fixed that hole, so now I can't wait to go back." GRADE: B

Oakland Hills (2008): "I like any course with Oak and Hill in its name." GRADE: A

 

What's in the Bag?

Driver: 10 1/2-degree (bent to 10 degrees) TaylorMade r7 (weighted screws in neutral position); 44 1/4-inch UST Proforce Proto graphite shaft; D4 swingweight

Fairway Woods: 15- and 19-degree Big Bertha Steelhead III; Penley Stealth graphite shafts; D3 swingweight

Irons: Cleveland Tour Action 3-PW (lead tape for D2 swingweight)

Putter: TaylorMade Rossa Imola Tour

Wedges: 51- and 60-degree Cleveland Tour Action

Gannon University pouch. Gannon, in Erie, Pa., is the alma mater of Micheel's former caddie Szczesny

British 20-pence piece ball marker

Anti-inflammatory

Pitch-mark repair tool

The stick that hit The Shot is no longer in Micheel's bag

ProLength 2 3/4-inch tees (yellow and white)

Titleist Pro V1 balls with red dot on dimple over V1

Lip balm

Sunblock

See-through putter grip honors Micheel's favorite band

OTHER STUFF IN THERE

• Pencils, spikes, spike wrench--"I'm a metal-spike guy"--and business cards

• Tool to put a line on balls for putting practice

• Sunglasses

• Hefty bag of gum and candies (substitute for chewing tobacco)

COLOR PHOTOPhotograph by DARREN CARROLL COLOR PHOTOMATTHEW STOCKMAN/GETTY IMAGESThis putt was nothing to get nervous about. COLOR PHOTOAMY SANCETTA/AP ¬†• Will Campbell ever win another?¬† COLOR PHOTODARREN CARROLL ¬†Kiss of death: losing confidence. COLOR PHOTOROBERT E. KLEIN/APGoing solo after two lessons. COLOR PHOTOMONTANA PRITCHARD ¬†¬† Micheel's gift struck a chord. COLOR PHOTOROBERT BECK ¬†Oak Hill, Rochester, N.Y. COLOR PHOTOJOHN BIEVER ELEVEN COLOR PHOTOSDARREN CARROLL

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)