So we'd have these conversations, and as soon as he hung up I'd burst into tears. He was very relaxed, as always. If you stay with Phil, you're going to have a good time. The NBA and NHL playoffs were on TV every night, so we teased each other and bet a little on the games and just had a good time watching and ribbing each other.
A few dollars changed hands, for sure. Stewart and Duval are in the final group, immediately behind the dream pairing of Woods and Mickelson. There is an electricity in the air, and even the players are feeling frisky. Before the third round Tiger and Payne were on the putting green and Tiger says to him, "When I start designing golf courses, I'm going to make them 9, yards long, and then you old guys won't stand a chance. Open, you'll still have to drive it in the fairway.
Payne loved that Tiger was in the mix.
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He wasn't intimidated by anyone. He felt like, This is my chance to take on the next generation. After two days of baking in the sun, Pinehurst turns into a firm, fiery test for the third round. Afterward Janzen says, "I've been asked many times what's the hardest golf course I've ever played. Now I have the answer. Woods starts double bogey, bogey. When Stewart bogeys 8, 9 and 10, Mickelson suddenly has a three-shot lead. That round is kind of a blur.
What I remember is that I wasn't hitting it that great, and I was fighting hard for par on every hole. The whole weekend was a testament to Payne's maturity. Earlier in his career he could get very down on himself, and a couple of bogeys would derail his round. At Pinehurst he just kept moving forward. Open pushes a lot of players to the breaking point, but I'm not sure I had ever seen Payne more at peace on a golf course.
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Stewart stops his bogey skid with a tremendous up-and-down from the back bunker on the 11th and then runs off six more pars, which constitutes a charge on this day. After Mickelson bogeys 11, 15, 16 and 17, he is one stroke off Stewart's lead standing in the 18th fairway.
Phil's cut shot wasn't working that week. He could only hit draws. So he drove it in 18 fairway, and the pin was way left, and he hadn't hit a cut shot in 53 holes, but he says, "I want to birdie this hole and get in the last group, so I'm going to have to try and cut an 8-iron. Standing in the 18th fairway, Stewart waits for Mickelson's extended standing ovation to subside.
Then he stuffs a 7-iron to 12 feet and makes a birdie of his own to retake sole possession of the lead. Despite putting problems, Stewart grinds out a 72, and at one under he is the only player in the field below par. Mickelson's 73 leaves him alone in second. With a 72, Woods is two back, tied for third with Tim Herron, while Duval's 75 puts him three strokes off the lead, tied for fifth with Vijay Singh and Steve Stricker. I felt very pleased with my golf swing. I shallowed out nicely. I bowed the hand down when I needed to. My trajectory was good.
My game plan was fine, I just didn't execute. It was a hard golf course, and you had to be very, very precise. The crowds had gotten so large, I decided to stay in our rental house to watch on TV. I noticed Payne was moving his head on his putts, kind of peeking to try to watch the ball go in the hole. I knew his game so well, I could usually spot when something was wrong. So I drove over to the course after he was done and found him in the press tent.
When I told him what I had observed, he said, "Well, I want to go work on it right now. So he stood on the practice green for quite a while, putting with his eyes closed and head down, to get the feel of following through without peeking. It was dark when we finally went home. Saturday night my contractions started coming really fast, so we decided to go to the hospital.
Phil happened to call right about then, but I didn't say anything. At the hospital they put me on a monitor and gave me terbutaline to slow the contractions. Webb comes and stays with me. I'm asking him every five minutes, "Should I call Phil?
This went on for a few hours. Finally the contractions slowed enough to where he felt comfortable sending me home. Following custom, the final round of the Open is on Father's Day. Stewart is ironing his clothes at his rental house while watching the early finishers when NBC plays a tribute to Payne and his father, Bill, an accomplished amateur competitor. Bill signed up his son for his first Open qualifier when Payne was 15 and even played alongside him.
Payne had tears in his eyes watching that feature. He was an emotional person, an emotional player, and I believe that thinking of his father [who died of cancer in ] gave him that extra motivation to go out and win the tournament. On Sunday morning Phil calls and I don't tell him a thing about the night before.
My lip is quivering. That was probably the most difficult moment of the whole thing. For the final round Woods and Herron are the second-to-last pairing, while Stewart and Mickelson are the last.
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It is an unseasonably cool and damp day. Stewart, wearing a navy rain jacket, takes a pair of scissors to the sleeves to free up his swing, unwittingly creating a new fashion trend. The biggest bleachers I have ever seen at a tournament in the U. To this day, one of the coolest memories of my caddying life came when Phil and Payne were walking to the tee. The whole grandstand stood up and cheered. It was almost like two gladiators going into the Colosseum. Woods sets the tone for the day with a birdie on the 1st hole, but Stewart answers with one of his own, pushing his lead to two.
Payne showed almost no emotion. It was like, Ho hum. He'd gone to a different place mentally. Mickelson cuts the lead in half with a curling footer on the 7th hole, which will be his only birdie of the day. Duval has blown himself out of the tournament with bogeys on 6 and 8 and a double on the 9th. When Stewart bogeys the par-5 10th hole, he and Mickelson are tied for the lead. Singh has sneaked to within one with birdies at 8 and Woods, meanwhile, plays a sweet approach to 12 feet on the 11th hole, but he pushes the birdie putt and blows the two-foot comebacker to fall three behind.
Stewart drives into a nasty lie in the right rough on the long par-4 12th hole and has to pitch out. The ensuing bogey gives Mickelson a one-stroke lead. At number 14, Woods drains a big-breaking footer for birdie. He drops to one knee and pumps his fist, sending the gallery into a frenzy. You could feel the energy building. You knew Tiger was going to keep coming.
Stewart rallies on the 13th hole to bury a footer for birdie and reclaim a share of the lead at one under. I just wasn't going to hand the trophy over to him. At yards the 16th hole is, at that point, the longest par-4 in U. Open history, and for the final round it's playing into the wind.
In the rain-soaked left rough off the tee Singh tries to get home with a fairway wood but comes up short and takes a killing bogey. From yards Woods reaches the green with a laserlike 4-iron and then makes the foot birdie putt, uncorking a vintage uppercut. He's a stroke off the lead. It was football-game loud. It would give you chills up and down your arms to hear it.
Back at the par-3 15th hole, Stewart pulls a 4-iron left of the green and misses an eight-footer for par, falling into a tie for second with Woods. I felt like I was in control of the tournament. I was leading, and it's a very difficult course to make birdies on. All I needed was three pars. At 16, Mickelson tugs his approach from yards into the rough short and right of the green. Stewart mishits his 2-iron, and his ball dies 10 yards short of the green. He runs the next shot 30 feet past the hole. When he bladed his shot, I didn't really consider him the No. I thought Tiger was.
On the downhill yard par-3 17th, the pin is back left. Woods draws a "soft" 7-iron into the greenside bunker. A decent recovery shot leaves him a do-or-die five-footer to save par. He had played an incredible back nine, and he had all the momentum from the crowd. I was thinking there's no way he misses the putt. Back at 16, Mickelson has what he calls a "very easy" chip, but he leaves it eight feet short. Stewart rams in his footer for an unlikely par.
If that ball doesn't go in, it runs 15 to 20 feet by. It had the potential to go off the green. I never get tired of watching replays of that putt. When it goes in, Payne just lifts his finger real casual-like, and he's chomping his gum miles an hour and that steely expression of his never changes. The conditions were so unusual for a U. Open—it was dark, it was misty. There was an almost eerie feeling. And you know, there's this church across the street from Pinehurst.
Seconds after Payne made that putt on 16, the bells started ringing, and that beautiful sound went out across the course. It felt like some kind of a sign. That's when I realized, If I don't make this putt, we're tied. I thought I was going to have a two-stroke lead with two to go. Biggest putt of his life. Mickelson pulls the putt and takes his first bogey of the round. With honors at the par-3 17th hole, Stewart plays a gorgeous draw with a 6-iron to four feet. That was the swing he was most proud of.
Under all that pressure he calmly went through his routine and executed beautifully. He had learned to trust himself in those situations. When Phil's ball hit and got close to the hole, that was a smell-the-roses moment for me. The place went crazy. Phil said, "Hey, take a look at this. But [the putt] certainly turned a little right, and it missed. In hindsight it was probably left-edge. In my 22 years as a caddie, if I could have one do-over, it would be [reading] that putt, by a million miles.
Stewart brushes in his birdie putt, and in the span of 20 minutes has gone from one down to one up. Payne hit a good drive on 18, but it kicked right and went into the rough by a foot. Worst lie of the week. There was no way he could get to the green. Stewart hacks out, leaving himself 77 yards from the flag.
Mickelson splits the fairway—for the round this wild child missed only two—and from yards follows with what he calls an "average" 7-iron that stops 30 feet right of the hole. Stewart hits a lob wedge 18 feet below the cup. Putting first, Mickelson plays a tad too much break and misses by an inch or two. The situation now facing Stewart is breathtaking in its simplicity: Make the putt and he's the U.
Open champion; miss it and he's headed to an hole Monday playoff. I kept my head still on that putt. And when I looked up, it was about two feet from the hole and it was breaking right in the center and I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that I'd accomplished another dream of mine. Stewart looses a guttural scream and two lusty fist pumps, and Hicks jumps into his arms and wraps his legs around his boss.
THE GREATEST U.S. OPEN EVER
Stewart then walks to Mickelson, cups Phil's face in his hands and says, "Good luck with the baby. There's nothing like being a father! When you talk about the greatest showings of sportsmanship in golf history, you have to say No. But that right there is probably second. Payne could immediately empathize with Mickelson. Payne knows the agony of defeat. Who knew it more than him? He held me so tight and said, "Lovey, I didn't move my head all day on those putts, just like you said.
I didn't move it once. All I wanted to do was give myself a chance.
Payne at Pinehurst: The Greatest U.S. Open Ever
And I've got to give thanks to the Lord for giving me the ability to believe in myself. Without that peace that I have in my heart, I wouldn't be sitting here in front of you right now. So along with that, I never gave up. I sat here last night and told you all that if I won again that I'm going to enjoy it a lot more, and I will.
Mickelson arrives home at midnight. Amy goes into labor the next morning, about the time Phil would have been warming up for a playoff. Amanda is born that evening. Here we are 15 years later, and I can tell her with all sincerity that her birth is the most emotional moment of our lives. It's something I would never want to miss, and I'm so glad I was able to be there, because it really is one of the greatest experiences in the world. I loved her even before I knew her. Duval would blow a couple of more majors before breaking through at the British Open.
After the greatest victory of his career he experienced a profound feeling of emptiness. He hasn't won since. Meanwhile, Woods won the PGA Championship two months after Pinehurst, touching off a decade of unprecedented dominance. John Hilton rated it it was amazing Jul 29, Don Gorman rated it liked it Jun 10, Tom rated it it was amazing Jan 07, Brett rated it it was ok Apr 27, Sundstrom rated it it was amazing Nov 11, Jenn rated it really liked it Jul 29, Michael Gorgei rated it did not like it Sep 27, Mark Noonan rated it liked it Jul 28, Kellen Quigley rated it really liked it Mar 22, Matthew Stetz marked it as to-read Jul 01, Ryan marked it as to-read Oct 13, Scott marked it as to-read Mar 27, Kent Andrusko added it Feb 28, Stu Miller is currently reading it Sep 11, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.
Bill Chastain began his journalism career as a freelance writer shortly after graduating from Georgia Tech in Some of the more notable publications where his stories have appeared over the years include: Chastain worked as a sports reporter for The St. Petersburg Times and The St.
Petersburg Evening Independent before goin Bill Chastain began his journalism career as a freelance writer shortly after graduating from Georgia Tech in Petersburg Evening Independent before going to The Tampa Tribune in , where he worked for twelve years as a columnist and sports reporter. While with the Tribune he also served as a correspondent for Sports Illustrated. Books by Bill Chastain.