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Feinstein Book Looks At Four Golfers' 'Moment of Glory'

May 12, 2010

The Seattle Times calls him "the best chronicler in sports journalism." USA Today has declared him "one of the best sportswriters alive."


John Feinstein has authored some 20 sports books including "Living on the Black," "Caddy For Life" and "Last Dance." His sports columns can be found in the Washington Post and Golf Digest, and he is a regular commentator on NPR's "Morning Edition." His latest book "Moment of Glory: The Year Underdogs Ruled Golf" ( May 2010 -- Little, Brown and Company) looks back at the PGA Tour, circa 2003 -- a year like no other in golf.

After winning six of the 12 majors from 2000 to 2002, Tiger Woods struggled with his game. Woods' absence at the top of the leaderboards in 2003 changed the lives of many -- especially four players who would embrace the opportunity, rising from relative unknowns to becoming first-time major champions, and in the process changing their lives forever.

Mike Weir started the "year of underdogs" when he became the first Canadian to win a major, donning the famed green jacket after winning the Masters in a playoff against Len Mattiace.

Jim Furyk was known to many golf fans as a solid golfer with an unusual swing. He used that swing to tie the record for the lowest 72-hole score and claim the U.S. Open title in Olympia Fields, Ill.

When PGA Tour rookie Ben Curtis met Weir the night before the British Open (The Open Championship to anyone not from the United States) at Royal St. George's Golf Club, the newly-crowned Masters champion asked if the young Ohioan was there to watch the tournament. But the unknown Curtis was there to play in his first major, and shocked the golf world when he hoisted the Claret Jug four days later.

Shaun Micheel had never won a PGA Tour event before a Sunday approach shot on the 18th hole that ESPN's Stuart Scott described as "one of the illest shots in the history of golf" propelled him to a shocking victory in the PGA Championship.

Weir, Furyk, Curtis and Micheel all had their moments of glory in the summer of 2003. And Feinstein chronicles their experiences and how it has affected them since, while also looking at those who came oh-so-close to living their major championship dreams before falling painfully short.

The following is a brief excerpt from "Moment of Glory."

***

Four days can change your life forever. And at the end, in the white-hot crucible of those final moments, one swing, one putt, one lucky or unlucky break, is often the difference between a life-time of happy memories and telling and retelling a story that makes you smile, and a lifetime of wondering, years later, if you’ll ever be able to shake that memory.

Sudden fame can mean radical life changes -- for good and for bad. Seven years after fulfilling their lifelong dreams, the four major winners of 2003 have taken very different roads. Jim Furyk is still one of the most successful players in the world but wonders, as he turns forty in 2010, if that Open will be his only major title. Mike Weir, who was born on the same day as Furyk (Furyk is a few hours older), is still very successful but has been through some serious valleys in recent years.

So has Ben Curtis, who struggled to deal with going from being a golfer other golfers didn’t recognize to being a major champion. He struggled for two years, found his game again in 2006, almost won the PGA in 2008, and then struggled again in 2009.

At least the first three remain fully exempt players on the tour. Shaun Michael ended 2009 at the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School, trying to regain his status as a fully exempt player on tour but still battling to come back after having major shoulder surgery in June 2008. He came up short of the top 25, which would have made him fully exempt again, finishing in a tie for 64th place in the 170-player field.

“There are times I tell myself I should just walk away and do something else,” he said one night late in 2009. “I’m forty, I’m in good shape financially, so why not give it a shot?”
He shook his head. “But then I remember how much I love golf, how much I love to compete. I’ve loved it since I was ten years old. I want to win again. I want something close to the feeling I had that day at Oak Hill.”

He paused, “Then again, maybe that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, if it was, well I guess I should consider myself lucky that it happened once.”

They all feel that way. All four want to win again, but they know how privileged they were to win once. And if they ever forget that, they might want to spend a few moments with Len Mattiace, Stephen Leaney, Thomas Bjorn, or Chad Campbell, in whose shoes they almost stood.

-- Excerpt Courtesy: Little Brown and Company

Issue 149: May 2010