Beem Returns to Major Beginning


Rich Beem was ecstatic with his 2002 International victory. It validated his maiden PGA Tour triumph in the 1999 Kemper Open.
He couldnt possibly fathom the events that would transpire two weeks from that Sunday in Castle Rock, Col. He was still trying to wrap his mind around what had just happened.
Beems brilliant final round, one that included seven birdies and an eagle ' good for 19 points under the modified Stableford scoring system ' had him a shoe-in for win No. 2.
He was at 44 points. Almost assured of victory. Almost.
Steve Lowery had a double eagle, an eagle and a birdie over his final five holes. Nine points down as he stood over his approach shot on the par-5 17th, Lowery holed a 6-iron from 200 yards to cut his deficit to one.
With the point system being the way it is ' eight points for a double eagle; five points for an eagle; two points for a birdie; zero points for a par; minus one point for a bogey; minus three points for a double bogey or worse ' it was all or nothing for Lowery, and Beem, at the par-4 18th.
Beem parred the last and then had to watch in agony as Lowery attempted a 10-foot birdie putt. He missed. Beem won, and then captured the PGA Championship a fortnight in the future.
Its been the best of times, and very frustrating at times since his improbable major triumph.
Beem traversed the globe, bagging bundles of bills, taking advantage of, perhaps, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so.
But that afforded opportunity might have come at the expense of improvement. He has earned only two top-10 finishes in 19 starts this season, and has had to endure varying degrees of criticism and doubt.
The 32-year-old former electronics salesman will need more than an overwrite in form in order to defend his title. No player has ever won back-to-back Internationals in the tournaments 17-year history.
Ken Green won the inaugural event in 1986 and then finished runner-up in 87. Phil Mickelson did the same in 97 and 98. Mickelson is the only multiple winner, doing so in 93 and 97. He also finished second in 2000.
Mickelsons maiden International victory came in the first year the tournament did not reset scores in the final round. From 1986-92, those who qualified for the final round all started at zero points. Since then, points have been accumulated through all four rounds.
There are 144 players in the field. The low 70 and ties make it to the third round, while the top 36 and ties qualify for Sunday.
Once again, a stellar field will attack the highly elevated 7,559-yard, par-72 Castle Pines course.
Ernie Els, the 2000 champion, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, 1990 winner Davis Love III, Mickelson, 1998 champ Vijay Singh, David Toms and Mike Weir are all scheduled to compete.
The purse is $5 million, with $900,000 going to the winner.
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