Steve Elkington is allergic to grass. That would be OK if your sport of choice were, say, basketball or auto racing. Unfortunately, its golf, and unless you are going to spend a whole lot of time in the bunkers, you are going to have to live with grass.
Elkington never has learned how to live comfortably with it. But hes learned to co-exist through medication, never more successfully than at the PGA Championship in 1995.
That was the year that he won the tournament, outlasting Brit Colin Montgomerie in a playoff. A 20-foot putt was the dagger, applied by Elkington just minutes after Monty had faced a putt of near-identical length in the same area of the same green. That one was in regulation and meant Elkington would be required to go into a playoff to get the win.
In 95 when I won the PGA, Id won early in the year at the Tournament of Champions, said Elkington, and I finished about third (actually tied for fifth) in the Masters, and I had a good chance to win the British.
And I was full of confidence. Id won, and Id been close. And I strolled into the PGA knowing the course real well. And the confidence level was high. Its hard to play with a lot of confidence in the majors, but I was able to do it because I had a good record up to that point.
With the simplest of swings and a near-magical putting stroke, Elk should have been one of the worlds top-rated players most of his career. Alas, frequent allergic reactions and back problems made it comfortable to compete only part of the time.
But in 1995, Elkington was in that slot, that groove. At Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles, he excelled on the final day with a 64. Pair that with a couple of 68s and throw in a 67, and you have a champions score.
Except for one man ' Montgomerie.
Elkington had it won on the 72nd hole, having already finished, with only Monty still having an outside chance. Montgomerie was facing a lengthy putt, and Elkington was a very interested observer from his seat in front of a television set.
And ' Montgomerie made it!
His looked like about half a cup, and it crept in the side door, said Elkington. So when the two came back around to 18 on the first playoff hole, Elkington was ready.
As fate would have it, Elkingtons putt was in practically in the same position as Montgomeries had been. When I looked at the line, I could just see what I saw on TV 20 minutes ago with his putt, Elkington said. I almost visualized that thing running up the same line.
Give Elkington a line that he has already seen, and you know what is going to happen. Statistics show that during this PGA Championship, he tied for first in putting. And sure enough ' the ball rolled straight and true, right into the heart of the cup.
The thing I couldnt get out of my mind on the back nine was that if I win this tournament, Im going to go down in history, said Elkington. In the playoff, one of us is going to be in history ' and the other isnt. That is a neat feeling.
So, despite his many problems with allergies, Elkington had his major. The grass may at times force him inside, but it can never force him to give up his trophy.