Ebbs and Flows in the Big Show

RSS

Youre sitting there watching it unfold and the story line is formulating in your brain: A tale of two players.
 
Scott Verplank. A rock at the 2002 Ryder Cup matches. Will turn 39 in July. Not a bomber by the stretch of anybodys imagination. But he has discovered a very nice little second act to a career that started all those years ago at the Western Open in 1984 when he won that tournament as an amateur with a swing that was machine-like in its precision.
 
As Yogi Berra might have said, Scott Verplank's limits were limitless.
 
Sundays HP Classic of New Orleans was going to be Verplanks fifth career victory. And as late as the middle of the final round he still had a comfortable lead over Steve Flesch and Bob Estes.
 
Then, at a time when everybody least expected it, Verplank lost control of his game. It wasnt a choke. That word simply isnt fair and involves more background in psychotherapy than I am qualified to dispense. But he bogeyed the seventh and eight holes and suddenly his lead over eventual winner Flesch was down to a shot.
 
Then he failed to birdie the par 5 15th, a birdie hole. Then he bogeyed 16 and double-bogeyed 18. And quicker than you can say, Thats golf, he was wondering how in the name of crawfish etouffe Estes and Flesch had advanced into a playoff and he had finished third.
 
In a certain manner of speaking, Scott Verplank gave the tournament away. Or as he put it, I just played bad.
 
But at the same time, Flesch won the golf tournament. He shot 65-65 on the weekend and didnt make a bogey on the last 55 holes. He played the long par 4 18th - a hole that ranked as the toughest finishing hole on the PGA Tour last year - in 2-under par before jarring a 30-footer for birdie on this same hole to beat Estes in a one-hole playoff.
 
Flesch had arrived at English Turn Sunday morning seven shots behind Verplank. But he knows his strength is his ball-striking. He could feel the wind gathering and he knew this would work in his favor if he could make a few putts early. He responded by making birdies on five of the first seven holes.
 
So while Verplanks frustrating drama was playing out in one direction, Flesch was coming from the other end of the spectrum. Arguably, he was the best player never to have won on the PGA Tour. He captured the 1997 Nationwide Tour Championship and was Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour the very next season.
 
But he never won a tournament in The Show. And it was getting to be time. He was 35. The monkey on his back was starting to feel like King Kong. He had still not discovered a first act for his career on the big Tour.
 
It looked like he had fallen short yet again when he drove his ball into a bunker on the 471-yard 18th at the end of regulation. It would be too far to reach the green. He would have to lay up, wedge it close and make a putt and THEN hope the leaders behind him didnt produce any fireworks.
 
This didnt mean he would root against them. It did mean he would root for himself. He got his chance. And then came the putt against Estes in the playoff that was pure as the driven snow and right in the heart of the cup.
 
The next win will come easier for Steve Flesch. The next week will be difficult for Scott Verplank.
 
Two players. Two story lines.
 
The tour moves its tent to North Carolina next week.
 
I cant wait to see what unfolds next.