Remembering The Final Round In 1999
Continued (page 2 of 5)
Phil Mickelson: I talked to Amy while I was warming up on Sunday, about 30 to 45 minutes before I teed off. She didn't tell me about her condition. Obviously it was a very emotional time for us.
Amy Mickelson: Phil calls me, and I just started crying, because of being in labor and being in stress and not knowing what to do. I just told him, "I love you; it's a big day for you. Go out and do your best and have fun." I laid on the couch watching it on TV, with pillows under my pelvis, taking the medicine. I really thought he was going to win. When it's your husband, you can see when he's comfortable in his own skin.
Mackay: There were people in the gallery who had Phil in the office pool yelling for me to take the battery out of the beeper.
Dan Hicks: There was never so much talk about a beeper in the history of sports. The whole thing takes on a bigger aura when you realize what happened the next day.
Paul Azinger: I almost wish Phil would've gotten the call, just to see what he would have done. Honestly, I think he would have left. I really do...I wonder if he had gotten the call, like on No. 11 [laughs], if he'd have finished out the round.
Scott Van Pelt, former reporter for The Golf Channel, now with ESPN: You'd like to think he would do the right thing. But who's to say what the right thing in that instance would be?
Maltbie: There's a part of me that says Amy wouldn't have called if he's leading the Open with five holes to go. But we'll never know.
Earlier in the final round, John Daly, frustrated by Pinehurst's sloping greens, made an 11 on the par-4 eighth by whacking his ball as it rolled back to him. Daly finished with an 83, the day's high round.
Tom Meeks, USGA senior director of rules and competitions: I'm still not sure we got his score right. He did so damn many things wrong there, it was hard to add them all up.
THE MAIN EVENT
With play bogging down in the final groups, Woods and Tim Herron had been told to speed up on the eighth hole, and they did. Meeks, the USGA's lead rules official, later approached Stewart and Mickelson on the 12th. Meeks had had an unpleasant such encounter with Stewart the year before at Olympic.
Meeks: It doesn't matter if it's the last group in the U.S. Open. As I recall, the problem that day was not Payne. It was Mickelson who was lagging back a little. But you're telling the group. They started walking faster.
Mike Hicks: Payne was clearly not rattled. I don't think he even acknowledged that he was playing slow. He got the bad time in '98 because he was trying to figure out what to do from that sand-filled divot and because Tom Lehman was practice-putting in between holes.
Tiger Woods: We were grinding so hard—the golf course was so hard—that we kept putting ourselves in places where it was just hard to get a feel for your shot. You had so much stuff in front of you that you had to take your time to figure it all out. Where to miss it? If I miss it, how hard to hit it? Where am I going to land it? What kind of spin am I going to put on it? We ended up getting about a hole or a hole and a half behind.
Woods holed a long, curling putt on the 14th to move within two shots of the lead. Mark Rolfing, NBC's on-course reporter with Woods: Tiger had been frustrated, hitting a lot of good shots but not holing putts. That putt on 14 was the first time he really got his crowd energized. It made the last few holes tremendously exciting. At that point everybody was thinking Tiger could still win.
Steve Stricker, paired with Singh: I thought I was playing with the winner again. At that point in my career it seemed I was playing with a lot of winners: I was with Janzen at the Olympic Club in 1998 and with Singh later that year at Sahalee in the PGA. I thought, Here we go again.
Vijay Singh: The bogey I made at the 16th hole really cost me the tournament. If I didn't make that bogey, I probably would have been in a playoff with Payne.
HEADING TOWARD A BIG FINISH
After holing a 15-foot, right-to-left putt for birdie on the 13th hole, Stewart missed an eight-footer to bogey the 15th and drop one stroke behind Mickelson, whose 30-footer for birdie caught part of the hole but didn't drop.
Mike Hicks: That missed putt didn't hurt Payne's confidence at all. He came over to me after that and said, "That was the best putt I hit all week. I just misread it; it broke more than I thought it would."
The 489-yard 16th was then the longest par 4 in U.S. Open history, and it played into the wind on Sunday. It would be a pivotal hole for every contender.
Gary Koch, NBC: I remember a stat at some point that players were hitting that green in regulation only 15 percent of the time.
As Mickelson addressed his tee shot on the 16th, a roar erupted from the green and caused him to back off. Woods had made a 15-foot birdie putt, getting within a stroke of the lead, and punctuated it with an emphatic fist pump.
Rolfing: I'm sure they heard it, and I'm sure everybody knew what was happening. Back then, a Tiger roar was different from any other roar. That's not so much the case now, five to six years later. Today, a Phil Mickelson roar is pretty big, too.
Koch: Payne didn't hit that good a drive. It was in the fairway, but quite a ways back. Then Payne did not hit a very good second shot, a 1- or 2-iron, and it bounced out of a cross bunker about 40 yards out. If he'd gone in the bunker, he really would have had problems.
Mike Hicks: It was an awful second shot, a thin pull with a 2-iron that I think clipped a tree limb.
Koch: Kind of typical of the way Mickelson played back then, Phil hit way too aggressive a second shot. The pin was front-right, and he missed short and right to where he didn't have much green to work with, and he was in thick, gnarly Bermuda rough. To me, after watching Stewart come up short of the green, he should have been thinking, Put the ball in the middle of the green, or maybe a little bit left. If I make par, maybe I pick up another stroke.