It's been a longtime since the PGA Tour stop in Memphis seemed important. Then came last week'sLast Stop Before the U.S.¬†Open and unavoidable irony. During a 20-year runwith hometown goliath FedEx as title sponsor, the newly rechristened StanfordSt.¬†Jude Championship never delivered like this.
There was a great winner. What else can you call Woody Austin, aself-proclaimed underachiever who shot a brilliant eight-under¬†62 in thefinal round, pulling away with five birdies on the final nine at TPC Southwindto win by five strokes?
There was a greatenigma. Adam Scott, the marquee name on the leader board, held a three-shotlead after 54 holes, but as Austin charged, Scott badly blocked his tee shotinto the water at the par-3 14th hole, made a triple bogey and fell apart.Instead of Scott's cementing his place as the Next Big Thing, we're leftwondering if he isn't the best player not to have won a major, after all.
There was aCinderella story. That was in the form of England's Brian Davis, who previouslyhad only one top¬†40 finish this year (21st at Atlanta). He had to rush toOrlando on the Tuesday of tournament week after learning that his wife Julieand two sons, ages three and 18 months, had been hospitalized because of a gasleak in their house. The good news: Everyone is fine and they're back home. AtJulie's urging, Davis, 32, flew back to Memphis on Wednesday night and enjoyedthe best week of his career by coming in second. "Golf took a backseat thisweek," he said.
Finally, there wasa great soap opera. Are you surprised it involved John Daly? He opened with aneven-par¬†70, then showed up at the course the next day with what lookedlike fresh claw marks on both sides of his face. Daly, who owns a house atSouthwind, said that earlier that day he had filed a complaint with the policealleging that he was attacked while he slept by his wife, Sherrie, who came athim with a steak knife shouting, "I will kill you!" Daly, 41 andplaying on a sponsor's exemption, soldiered on despite his unsightly wounds,shooting a 74 to make the cut on the number. He went 75-79 on the weekend andfinished next to last and had no further comment about the incident. Sherrie,31, is Daly's fourth wife. In 2006 she served time in prison for moneylaundering. They filed for divorce but later reconciled.
Scott's collapsewas almost as messy. If he had won, he would've jumped past Jim Furyk to thirdin the World Ranking. "I played 70 good holes and a couple of badones," said Scott, whose closing 75 dropped him to seventh. "Obviously,this wasn't what I was looking for."
In the short run,Austin's resurgence could be significant. His profile is not unlike that ofanother player with a homemade swing, 1983 U.S. Open champion Larry Nelson.Austin, a latecomer to the Tour (he worked as a bank teller and a bartender tosupport his golf), is a terrific ball¬†striker but struggles with hisputting and his confidence. Austin also fights his nerves. "I'm not afraidto admit that I'm probably the most nervous person who has ever played thisgame," he says. It's one of the reasons that, at 43, he still hasn'trealized his full potential.
Like Nelson's,Austin's strength is his accuracy, and his iron shots were deadly duringSunday's final nine. Austin has flirted with the lead several times in theearly rounds of past U.S. Opens and sees the event as his best chance "ifI'm ever going to get lucky enough to win a major."
Make a note: IfOakmont delivers as well as Memphis did, this could be a week to remember.
Read Inside Golf by Gary Van Sickle at GOLF.com.
Daly alleged that his wife, Sherrie, attacked him as he slept sometime beforelast Friday's round.
Austin's closing 62 was his best score in 1,197 rounds and 383 career starts onthe PGA Tour.