Fantastic Finish in Castle Rock


CASTLE ROCK, Colo. - Are you kidding me? That had to be one of the best finishes in the history of the PGA Tour. At least for a regular tour event.
Steve Lowery's record of 14 points on holes 14-17 was ridiculous! Birdie, eagle (from the fairway), bogey and double eagle (from the fairway again) set up one of the most dramtic endings we've seen in a while. Rich Beem was so nervous watching Lowery's birdie putt on 18 that he was visibly shaking. Of course the putt stayed on the lip leaving Lowery on his knees and Beem to receive congratulatory hugs and kisses from his wife, Sara.
The beauty of the Modified Stableford Scoring system was what made Sunday so special. No other tournament on tour gives you the scenario we all gawked at Sunday on 18. Down one point, Lowery had a birdie putt to win. No playoff if he missed like a stroke play event. It was either win or second place. Somewhere Dr. Stableford was smiling.
How about Rich Beem? He validated his tour status by winning for the second time in his young career. What a candid guy. After he won we asked him about looking so nervous while watching Lowery on 18. Rich's response was classic. He admitted the money was awesome but said what's the difference between the $810,000 first-place check and the runner-up's $486,000? He said they're both equally ridiculous amounts of cash. Winning is why we're out here. It's nice to hear a professional athlete admit the money is huge, but victory is what it's all about.
Rich also said he thinks the win could lead to some big things. He learned that after his last 'W' he wasn't prepared for what was to come. Now he thinks he'll work harder to keep his game moving forward. When you beat a field that includes names like Mickelson, Els, Garcia, Singh, Love III and Duval your confidence soars. Will he win a major? Probably not anytime soon but Rich Beem is a man who has proven his worth on the game's grandest stage.
The great finish also capped off an almost perfect week at Castle Pines. Sunday's rain delay was the only negative. The course and format are fun. I wouldn't want to see the scoring system every week but one time, to break things up, it's nice. The tournament itself is a beauty. The players love it because the atmosphere here is as good as any on the schedule. It's one of the prettiest spots on tour and everyone is treated like royalty. Aside from the four majors, Players Championship and WGC events, The International is right there with Bay Hill, The Byron Nelson and The Memorial in the quest for best tournament.
Next year The International moves to the week before the PGA Championship. The fine folks who run this tournament have lobbeyed for years to get that date. We won't know until 2003 whether the switch is good or bad but one thng we do know is it will be extremely difficult to match the excitment we witnessed Sunday at Castle Pines.