By the end of 94, however, it was just about over. Price by then had a family and he was beginning to devote more and more time to the art of being a stay-at-home poppa. Golf then was truly down to No. 2 or 3 on his list of priorities. By the end of 1996 he had three children and a wife, Sue, and he was a happy husband,
In 97, though, he won again ' at the MCI Classic. And in 1998, he won one of his most impressive triumphs, the FedEx St. Jude Classic, in a dramatic playoff over Jeff Sluman.
After three rounds, Price either had the lead by himself or was tied for the lead by days end every day. But there are two more pieces to this story ' Sluman, who had lost four playoffs in a row (including one in Japan); and Paul Azinger, who had not won since his bout with lymphoma cancer in 1993.
Azinger was only one shot out of the lead when Sunday began. However, he was the first to go under, suffering a double bogey at No. 6 and a bogey at No. 8 that did him in.
That left Price and Sluman. Sluman continued his torrid play of Saturday when he shot a 66 by scoring a 65 on Sunday. Playing a group ahead, he had squeezed two shots clear of Nick by the time Price was ready to play the par-5 16th hole.
But Price tied it up with an eagle on the 16th. And on 18, Price had an excellent chance to end it after he arched his approach shot from 180 yards to 10 feet.
Thats a hell of a shot, isnt it? said a wide-eyed Sluman as he waited for Price to putt. But Prices putt lost speed and lipped out, and the pair marched to the first playoff hole.
I couldnt believe it stayed out, but thats been happening to me, lamented Price.
In the playoff, Price was in a fairway bunker off the tee, close to the front of the trap where he would have to get his approach up quickly. The shot would also have to settle quickly because water guarded the left side of the fairway. But Price confidently approached the shot and fired it from 178 yards. The ball performed exactly as instructed ' it rose quickly out of the bunker, then put on the brakes once it reached the green. Two putts later, the two were headed to the second playoff hole.
It was on the second hole that Sluman made the mistake. His tee shot was a push, splashing down in a lake. That was enough for Price, who snuck in the side door for his third playoff victory.
I was trying to draw it, said Sluman, instead of taking it down the left side and cutting it. And I ended up pushing it to the right.
Still, I did all I could to win. Usually when you begin the final round one off the lead and shoot 65, thats good enough to win.
On this day, though, Nick Price was a little bit better.