Price was the name on everyones lips for four years or so, beginning in 1991. The headline was used so much that it became a bothersome clich ' Price Is Right. Nick had seen it, too ' I saw it so much that I felt like Bob Barker, he said.
It was sometime in 1995, however, when Price sort of faded from constant memory. For one thing, he won only twice more, and not once since 1998. For another, this kid named Tiger Woods came along. Need I say more?
Price was the last Tiger Woods before the real Tiger Woods came around. He and Woods won the same amount of tournaments in the 90s ' 15. Its just that Price did his at the front of the decade and Tiger the last. Tiger, of course, will probably continue his run for a couple of more decades, while Nick has probably won the majority of his by now.
So Nick Price wasnt the flavor of the month anymore when he took the first-round lead in Pennsylvania. And he still wasnt when he followed his 66 with a 71, a 68 and a 69 to finish fifth. He was a veteran whose best days were probably behind him, instead of a youngster whose prime is still the years ahead.
When you get older, you see, things like lack of wins is very irritating. You can get by on high finishes when you are younger. When you are older, its a win or its nothing.
I think what happens when you get a little bit older, your tolerance level of substandard play diminishes, he explained.
When youre younger and you get out here, youll chop it around for nine, ten holes and try your tail off; in fact, for four rounds. But when you get a little older, its so much harder to do that. When youve been doing that for 25 years, it gets a little old.
Price is still a money machine ' last year he won $1.8 million, his most ever, more even than 1994 when he won six times. He had two seconds and three thirds, but no victories. And when the first round rolled around recently in Pennsylvania, he talked about the improvement in ' his putting?
Price would appear to be a very steady putter. He stands 58th on the list this year, which is not a great position, but when you consider the PGA Tour ranks more than 200 players, he is well up in the better half.
Anyway, he wasnt happy with the putting. So, he got out a few tapes of tournaments he had won during the streaking years ' the British Open in 94, Hartford in 93, the Players Championship in 93 ' and made a couple of notes.
What I noticed more than anything else was that my right knee was so still when I putted well, he said. Theres always that thing ' youre peeking, you have to have a look.
But you can have a look and still keep your lower half still. I watched a lot of good putters on the putting green the last couple of weeks, and thats one thing that I didnt do consistently enough that they do.
Price has always been one of the outstanding iron players, but his putting trips him up just often enough that he no longer is a consistent big winner. And he doesnt hit it far enough to allow him to consistently chew up the par-5s. But he will always be around the big money because those irons are so consistently accurate.
Nick got married rather late, at age 30, and consequently his children are still young (ages 10, eight and five.) Price himself didnt blossom until he was 35, when won four times on the Tour. But theres a light that is beckoning out there, and its steadily coming closer.
When you get to be 44, theres not much to look forward to in golf, except the Senior Tour, he said. And unless his skills drop off dramatically, he is going to have his own way with the Seniors for a few years.
His putting is plenty good enough to win amongst the elders, regardless of what he says about going back and looking at the old Nick Price. Just dont mention the broomstick.
Anyone thats been through the putting wars, its me, he laughed. And I refuse to go to long putter. Im keeping that in reserve for the Senior Tour.