By John Strege
The notion that no one remembers who finished second met its demise on a remarkable summer day in 2000. Bob May finished second, and those who watched it are unlikely to forget it.
On that day at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, May, 5-7 and 160 pounds, David to Tiger Woods’ Goliath, went toe to toe with Woods in the final round of the PGA Championship, shooting 66 to Woods’ 67 to erase a one-stroke lead, only to lose by a stroke in a three-hole playoff.
The PGA Championship returns to Valhalla next week, which explains why May’s phone has been uncharacteristically busy with calls and texts. He also began to receive Facebook friend requests at a fever pace, “probably 500 to 600 of them,” he said from Hawaii, where he was opening his second Bob May Golf Academy (he opened his first in Las Vegas 2 1/2 years ago).
“I’ve gotten tons of calls,” May, 45, said. “Then I just started getting these messages, people saying ‘that was the greatest tournament I’ve ever seen.’ I thought, ‘well, Golf Channel must have been showing something.’”
Golf Channel indeed had aired “Golf’s Greatest Rounds — 2000 PGA Championship” on Tuesday night. The condominium at which May has been staying in Hawaii does not have Golf Channel.
“For us to be sitting here talking about it 14 years later is something,” May said. “I’ll never forget it, when I finished, [CBS’] Ken Venturi and Jim Nantz telling me how spectacular it was and that it would go down as one of the great duels in history.”
May said he recalled watching Jack Nicklaus and Isao Aoki slug it out at the 1980 U.S. Open. “I thought, ‘OK, whatever. It’s not going to blow that one out of the water.’" Wrong.
“The way it happened and the battle that took place, when you look at it now it’s something very unique. People go, ‘you lost the tournament.’ No, I didn’t really lose it. He won it. Between ’99 and 2001 it might have been the best golf we’ve ever seen in our lives. The guy hit it the longest, he hit it the straightest, he could chip, he could putt. Where was the weakness? There was none. It was the total package. And to spot him a stroke going into the final round was tough.”
May, who will attempt to regain his PGA Tour card, holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, requiring Woods to make what was described as a six-footer for birdie to tie.
“I’m telling you, if it’s six feet I want to buy real estate from you,” May said. “It was every bit of 10 or 12 feet. It was a lot longer than everyone said. The putt he made was phenomenal. But I never thought he was going to miss it.”
(Getty Images photo)