Rich Beem got a brief introduction a couple of years ago when he won the Kemper Open. Then came a prolonged blackout when he settled back into relative anonymity while finishing 146th and 109th on the money list the last two years. Then, without prior warning, he wins the International and the PGA Championship in his last two starts.
So - was it a fluke? Will Beem get over this hot streak and settle back into obscurity? Will his story be that of one Craig Perks, who had one glorious week at the Players Championship, then stepped back into the faceless masses who toil week-in and week-out on the tour?
Those, incidentally, were the two best fields of the year, the Players and the PGA. With people watching from around the globe, with the greatest players on earth on the same golf course, these guys were the winners. Not Tiger or Sergio or Mickelson or Love, but Craig Perks and Rich Beem. Both had to be playing great golf for one week to get it done ' you dont have 100 of the greatest players in the world having an off-week at the same time. Both of these guys had four of the greatest days of their golfing life.
Perks is somewhat understandable, his brief, shining moment and then the retreat back to normalcy. He is 36 years old, a family man who has so many things other than golf to occupy his mind. Chances are not good that he would suddenly explode on the radar screen and stay there. At his age, he is probably on the same page as so many golfers like him who have family and a much broader life than just golf. He clearly has the talent to jump up into the stratosphere every once in awhile. But he is involved in far too much to do it too often.
Beem, on the other hand, is a bit intriguing. Hes also in his 30s ' 31 ' old enough that any sign of greatness should have manifested itself back in his 20s. But there is one big difference ' he recently got married, and in his case, marriage had to be a very positive step in his career. According to many reports, he was pretty much wedded to the nightlife earlier in his career. The nightlife is good for a lot of things, but not so good for a budding golf career.
Beem caught a break in that Tiger Woods never could wrestle away the lead. If Tiger had ever got his nose in front, that would have been it. You knew it was coming, this furious charge. Beem knew it was coming, Tiger knew it was coming. And Beem was able to stay in front with an eagle and a birdie coming home.
Tiger, as usual, was extremely gracious in his post-mortems.
Thats awfully impressive, to go out there and shoot a round like that when he absolutely has to do it, said Woods. Sometimes it might be a benefit to be a little nave in a situation because youve never been there before in a major championship.
A lot of people think that if Tiger could have gotten in the last pairing with Beem, it would have been different. Beem would have had to look at perhaps the greatest player in the history of the game instead of Justin Leonard, who himself was having a myriad of problems. Woods, though, was playing one group ahead, and there are a lot of people who believe that made all the difference in the world.
Tiger isnt necessarily one of them. It might have made a difference, but then again, it may not.
Dont know. Dont know, said Tiger. He played great and I didnt.
He had the advantage of being in the final group where you could react to what the other players are doing ahead of you, and thats the idea of being in the final group. If someone makes a run, at least you have the same holes to answer them on. Thats what he did on 16.
On 16, Beem drained the bomb that eventually meant the championship. Of course, it could have evolved in a completely different manner. He could easily have three-putted the 35-footer, allowing Woods the chance up ahead to tie.
But in the end, the story remains the same ' Tiger wasnt in the last group because he was five behind when the day started. He had a very simple solution for the fix he was in ' play better. He didnt, and as a result, he got beat.
So Rich Beem wins a major championship. And not just any major ' he won the major that had the most players in the top 100 in history. He richly deserved the trophy.
Now, the question is, will he stay there? Is this the beginning of something huge? Or is it just a pleasant introduction, then a retreat back into the rank and file of golfdom?