I think about it every day when I practice, he said before the 1990 Open at Medinah. Medinah has always been in the back of my mind. Ive tried so hard to peak.
In 1988 it had begun at Brookline. Starting Sunday with a one-shot lead, Strange was around the top or at the top all day. Nick Faldo, just beginning to come into his own, was his competition as the tournament eased into its home holes.
Strange almost blew it when he three-putted the 17th to drop into a tie with Faldo. Then, he had to get up-and-down from a yawning bunker in front of the 18th green. Faldo was safely on in two shots. It was one of the best shots of my life, he said, the ball snuggling up to four feet. Strange then sank the putt, Faldo two-putted, and it was on to the 18-hole playoff Monday.
Monday was anti-climatic, as most Open playoffs are. Strange never trailed in shooting 71, Faldo shot 75, and Strange dedicated this one to his late father, Tom Strange, a club pro who taught Strange how to play.
The second, in 1989 at Oak Hill, was supposed to be Tom Kites tournament. Kite led Strange by three shots as Sunday began, and added a shot for a four-shot bulge over Strange at No. 3.
However, Kite unraveled quickly, knocking his tee shot at the fifth into a creek, then missing an 18-inch putt for triple bogey. Two more bogeys and a double at 13 finished him off. Scott Simpson, second by a stroke when the day began, disintegrated with bogeys at 3 and 9 and a double at 8.
Strange grimly strode along, making 15 straight pars until a 15-foot birdie at the 16th put him in the lead. He was able to three-putt the last to win by one over Chip Beck, Mark McCumber and Ian Woosnam.
If you can win two, you can win three, reasoned Mark Calcavecchia, and Strange almost did it to match the record thrown up by Scot Willie Anderson back in 1903-05.
He hung around the lead until the mid-point of the final round. Mike Donald and Hale Irwin simply had too much for Strange, and Irwin won Monday in a playoff over Donald.
Strange lost his zest for the game with this tournament and never was the same again.
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