The long road to rediscovery

At 31 and with more miles on the clock than your average Volvo, Bob May could have called himself part of that ever-swelling rank known as the journeymen professionals. That was before Valhalla. But the story of Bob May's past more than indicates his potential for greatness.

At 31 and with more miles on the clock than your average Volvo, Bob May could have called himself part of that ever-swelling rank known as the journeymen professionals. That was before Valhalla. But the story of Bob May's past more than indicates his potential for greatness.

May did not come from a golfing family; his father owned a filling station in the unfashionable town of Lynwood, California. But May cobbled together a set from the single clubs an aunt gave him each year at Christmas. May was a natural and dominated the Southern California junior circuit, breaking all records. Seven years later a phenomenal young golfer arrived on the Southern Circuit and set about dismantling May's records before focusing his sights on Jack Nicklaus. That was Tiger Woods.

"I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but in some newspaper articles, when he was little, Tiger would say, 'I'm going to beat all of Bob May's records'," May said after Sunday's play-off. "He kept saying it and doing it, saying and doing it, saying and doing it. And today I thought maybe this was my chance to get him back."

It was not, but the world sat up and took notice of the golfer who as an amateur partnered Phil Mickelson in the 1991 Walker Cup at Portmarnock and who the next week beat the now world No 3 David Duval in the semi-final at the Amateur Championship at Ganton. May lost in the final to England's Gary Wolstenholme, the golfer who was to beat Woods in the final singles match at Royal Porthcawl and win the Walker Cup for Britain in 1995.

May turned professional in 1992, joining the American Tour and among his financial backers from the Bel-Aire Country Club in Los Angeles was the actor Joe Pesci. The investment was not a wise one, however, as by 1994 his earnings had dwindled to $30,000 (£19,500) and at 209 on the US Tour rankings he had lost his card.

In an effort to rediscover his game May travelled the world, concentrating heavily on the European Tour. He racked up 22 runners-up finishes before last year's BritishMasters at Woburn. With Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood on his heels, May hinted at his love for a fight and disrespect of reputations as he saw off Europe's No 1 and 2.

That gave him an exemption into the PGA Championship.

Next up was a 13th-place finish at the US Tour qualifying school to regain his card and this time there was to be no mistake. Before Valhalla, May had played in 17 tournaments on the US Tour, made the cut in 13 and finished second in June at the St Jude Classic. Still there were few aware of who he was, but May knew his game had returned.

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