Micheel continues series of first-time major winners

Journeyman from Memphis produces stroke of genius to see off Campbell challenge while Woods is wayward again
Click to follow

A stroke of a sheer brilliance sealed victory for Shaun Micheel in the 85th USPGA Championship. It left the 34-year-old from Memphis with the easiest of tap-ins from two inches on the 18th green at Oak Hill as another obscure player claimed his first major championship.

Micheel started the week ranked 169th in the world but by the time he played the seven-iron from 174 yards at the last which so nearly went in the hole he had become the seventh player to lift the Wanamaker Trophy at the first time of asking. The last was John Daly 12 years ago.

Micheel followed Ben Curtis in providing another stunning upset against the best field of the season. Curtis was ranked 396th in the world but like Micheel had never won at the highest level. Curtis was playing in his first major, this was Micheel's third. He was the fifth successive first-time major winner, a run started by Rich Beem at the USPGA last year, and the 13th in 15 years to make the USPGA their first major.

"I'm proud to be the PGA champion," Micheel said. "I would never have believed when I saw the course after the way I was driving it last week. Thank God for the putter." That was a club he hardly needed on the final green after his amazing approach shot. "I had a perfect yardage and a nice lie," he said. "I was just trying to hit it on the green. I was sweating down the stretch. I was being pushed all the way."

The birdie at the last gave Micheel a final round of 70 and at four under par he won by two strokes from Chad Campbell, with South Africa's Tim Clark and Alex Cejka, of German, three and four shots adrift.

None of the leading finishers at Oak Hill had won on the US Tour. Cejka had four victories in Europe, Clark was the South African Open champion last year, while Campbell, a 29-year-old from Texas, was a prolific winner on lower tours.

The only player to finish in the top six with major championship pedigree was Ernie Els, who tied with the 49-year-old Jay Haas at two over par. Els twice got to level par during an outward nine of 34, one under, but came home in 37 for a 71.

Mike Weir, the Masters champion, was the nearest player to Micheel and Campbell overnight at three strokes adrift but quickly crashed out of contention with bogeys on the first five holes. The Canadian, who is one of the grittiest competitors in the game, inexplicably collapsed to a 75, the same score as Phil Mickelson while Vijay Singh, the Open runner-up, had a 79.

Instead it was Clark, Weir's playing partner, who made a run at the final twosome with four birdies in the first six holes. He was briefly tied with Micheel at the turn but then started back with three bogeys. He got back to one under by holing a 15-footer at the 16th but could not convert his birdie chance at the last and finished with a 69.

Clark, who missed most of the 2001 season with a wrist injury, has used a long putter since he was in college but the jinx remains that no one wielding such an implement has ever won a major.

Cejka, whose cap hides his dyed blond hair, has been playing full-time in the States this year, and he played a brilliantly steady round. He birdied the fourth and after a bogey at the 12th got back to level par by holing a bunker shot at the next. His eight-footer at the 16th put him one under but he three-putted the 17th to finish at level par.

Micheel and Campbell had a rollercoaster battle in the final pairing. A birdie for Micheel at the short sixth gave him a two-shot swing and after he drove the green at the 323-yard 14th hole there was another, which put him three ahead with four to play. But at the next Micheel three-putted and there was a two-shot swing the other way.

In fact, Micheel did not par any of the last five holes, responding as he did with a birdie at the 16th from 20 feet before dropping that shot at the 17th. Micheel credits winning the Singapore Open in 1998 as the moment that got his career going. Since then he has taken the advice of his father, a former FedEx pilot who got him interested in both golf and flying: "Keep it simple, stupid."

"It took me some time to get comfortable at this level, not so much with my game but playing in front of people," said Micheel, whose wife Stephanie is expecting their first child in three months' time. "A few years ago put me in his position and I would probably have shot 85. I was just so timid. I didn't like walking around the fairway. I felt embarrassed if I hit it outside the ropes."

Tiger Woods wrapped up his major season long before the leaders got to the first tee as he tied for 39th, his worst finish in a major, after a 73 left him 12 over par.

* Marcus Fraser pipped Martin Wiegele to the Russian Open in a sudden-death play-off yesterday after both men registered final rounds of 68 for 19-under-par totals of 269 at the Moscow Country Club. The Australian secured the title at the second extra hole, the 18th, with a par four after both players had birdied the same hole first time round.

COMPLETE THIRD-ROUND SCORES FROM OAK HILL

(US unless stated)

276
Shaun Micheel 69 68 69 70

278
Chad Campbell 69 72 65 72

279
Tim Clark (SA) 72 70 68 69

280
Alex Cejka (Ger) 74 69 68 69

282
Ernie Els (SA) 71 70 70 71, Jay Haas 70 74 69 69

284
Fred Funk 69 73 70 72, Loren Roberts 70 73 70 71, Mike Weir (Can) 68 71 70 75

285
Billy Andrade 67 72 72 74, Niclas Fasth (Swe) 76 70 71 68, Charles Howell III 70 72 70 73, Kenny Perry 75 72 70 68

286
Robert Gamez 70 73 70 73, Tim Herron 69 72 74 71, Scott McCarron 74 70 71 71, Rod Pampling (Aus) 66 74 73 73

287
Carlos Franco (Par) 73 73 69 72, Jim Furyk 72 74 69 72, Toshi Izawa (Jpn) 71 72 71 73, Rocco Mediate 72 74 71 70, Kevin Sutherland 69 74 71 73

288
Stuart Appleby (Aus) 74 73 71 70, Luke Donald (GB) 73 72 71 72, Phil Mickelson 66 75 72 75, Adam Scott (Aus) 72 69 72 75

289
Woody Austin 72 73 69 75, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 71 71 77 70

290
Todd Hamilton 70 74 73 73, Padraig Harrington (Ire) 72 76 69 73, Frank Lickliter II 71 72 71 76, Peter Lonard (Aus) 74 74 69 73, David Toms 75 72 71 72

291
Fred Couples 74 71 72 74, Lee Janzen 68 74 72 77, JL Lewis 71 75 71 74, Jesper Parnevik (Swe) 73 72 72 74, Vijay Singh (Fiji) 69 73 70 79

292
Robert Allenby (Aus) 70 77 73 72, Briny Baird 73 71 67 81, Mark Calcavecchia 73 71 76 72, Joe Durant 71 76 75 70, Hal Sutton 75 71 67 79, Tiger Woods 74 72 73 73

293
Angel Cabrera (Arg) 71 76 72 74, Tom Pernice Jr 70 71 72 80, Duffy Waldorf 70 75 72 76

294
Ben Crane 73 73 76 72, Trevor Immelman (SA) 74 70 77 73, Shigeki Maruyama (Jpn) 75 72 73 74

295
Jose Coceres (Arg) 73 68 78 76, Gary Evans (GB) 74 74 71 76, Brian Gay 74 74 75 72, Len Mattiace 74 70 75 76, Jose Maria Olazabal (Spa) 74 74 76 71

296
Chris DiMarco 74 71 78 73

297
Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 69 77 73 78, Bob Estes 71 76 73 77, Scott Hoch 75 72 73 77, Bernhard Langer (Ger) 75 72 75 75

298
Jonathan Kaye 74 73 72 79, Billy Mayfair 76 72 78 72, Ian Poulter (GB) 72 75 72 79, Eduardo Romero (Arg) 77 71 76 74, Phil Tataurangi (NZ) 72 71 78 77

299
Paul Casey (GB) 79 69 75 76

300
Bob Burns 72 76 70 82

302
Rory Sabbatini (SA) 71 75 75 81

304
Michael Campbell (NZ) 74 71 80 79, KJ Choi (S Kor) 74 74 80 76

Comments