Players Cherish Paynes Legacy

By George WhiteJune 13, 2005, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: At 5:00 p.m. Tuesday (June 14), a public ceremony will be held at Pinehurst No.2's 18th green in memory of Payne Stewart.
Jim Mackay, who caddies for Phil Mickelson, remembers the moment as if it happened just five minutes ago. It was the final hole on the final day of the 1999 U.S. Open. A gray mist enveloped the 18th green at Pinehurst as Payne Stewart was preparing to putt.
Payne Stewart
Payne Stewart was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.
Surely you recall Mickelson had just missed a 25-footer and had settled for par and a likely 18-hole playoff. Stewart, who had a one-stroke lead, had taken three shots to reach the green after an indifferent drive and a layup. Now he had a 20-foot putt remaining that he had to make to win. Miss it, and the two would come back for a Monday finish.
The USGA paints a dot on the green to denote the pin location for the next days play. That was foremost in Mike Hicks mind. Stewarts caddie was concerned because he didnt see the dot, and he was pretty certain there would be a playoff.
Payne puts his ball down on 18, remembers Mackay, and Hicksy comes over and says, Bonesy, you got any dots for tomorrows playoff?
I was thinking what he said right as Payne hit his putt. About that time, Hicksy was doing the Yogi Berra thing. And we still joke about that.
Stewart, of course, won it when he poured the putt into the heart, setting off a leaping, hugging celebration between him and Hicks. But before the end of the year, Stewart himself was only a memory, dying in an airplane tragedy while flying over the heartland of America.
This year, the U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst for the first time since Stewarts victory. It will be a second celebration of his win as players remember the 99 victory.
A guy with the mentality that Payne had, he never gave up, never gave in and he was a bulldog type of guy, David Toms said. You just had a feeling he was going to make it (the putt), like everyone else did. He looked comfortable.
You can tell if a guy is taking more time than normal, is he doing a different routine, what kind of look does he have on his face, is he unsure of the break or whatever it might be. He certainly looked comfortable and he poured it right in.
Nick Price will never forget. The two things I will remember for as long as I live are the putt on 18, and then Payne using his two hands to hold Mickelsons face as he spoke to him, said Price. Stewart had immediately gone to Mickelson as soon as the embrace with Hicks ended. He then spoke to Mickelson about the birth of Mickelsons first child, which would come the next day.
It was a great, great moment for Payne, but all he wanted to say was, Dont worry, youre going to win this thing someday, said Price. He knew, even in his greatest moment ' he still had the empathy to say something like that.
Payne just had incredible feelings for his fellow pros like that.
Mickelson was extremely touched. I think I was most impressed with Payne when here he just won the greatest championship of the game and he's thinking about Amy and myself, said Phil.
It will be a trying week for just about everyone concerned when the players gather again at Pinehurst, said Mickelson. The memories of a man who was so unique are hard to erase.
It'll be very emotional for a lot of players because almost everybody out here considered Payne a good friend, he said. So it's going to be an emotional week for everybody.
Tiger Woods remembers that final day, recalls the fantastic stretch run of himself, Mickelson and Vijay Singh as one by one they grappled with Stewart. But even more, he remembers the celebratory party that Stewart threw when they all returned home to Orlando. I think thats what we should all focus on, said Woods.
There are a lot of little things that Woods remembers, but the little impish pranks stands out most in Tigers mind. The practical jokes and his needling, Tiger said. Whether it might be shaving cream in our shoes - he didn't do that to me, but he did it to some other guys. I was away from his locker (the lockers are placed alphabetically.) Being Woods, I wasn't right next to him, so I was lucky in that regard.
Ernie Els missed the cut at Pinehurst and doesnt have many fond memories of North Carolina in 99. But he has a million memories of Payne Stewart.
He was a true character, he said. You knew where he was coming from, and he had a little bit of air of cockiness to him. But it was a nice - it was kind of nice.
You know, he was a great guy. He always had something to say about something. I liked him.
Davis Loves fondest memories of Stewart dont involve Pinehurst, either. He remembers Payne most intimately for a match the two played in the Ryder Cup that fall. Love says he has never been quite the same player.
I think the night before it even started, and the next morning him trying to motivate me to play well, said Love. You know, he didn't want to lose, and he wasn't going to let me make him lose a match.
I had always sat back and waited for something to happen, kind of let the other player be the leader and just try to help out a little bit. And he was more like, We're going to get together on this and we're going to play hard. I'm not going to let you just let it happen. We're going to go out and beat these guys, and I want 100 percent from you from the first tee.
It got me to when I played with Kenny Perry or Fred Funk or whoever in the future, where I felt like maybe they would be waiting for me to say something or do something. I came out and said something because I learned from Payne how to have a conversation with your partner, how to motivate each other and hang in there.
You always knew it when you saw Payne Stewart, of course. He had planned it that way when he as a young pro to wear the distinctive attire. That, said Toms with a chuckle, was distinctively Payne.
Certainly he's going to be remembered for what he did at Pinehurst and the U.S. Open, agreed Toms, but there were a lot of things that he did for the game of golf that are probably overlooked.
I think he was the one guy that did something different with his attire and everything and presented himself in that way. More and more guys are doing that, trying to make a statement by what they're wearing and so forth. I think he was one of the guys that kind of started that.
Justin Leonard can only laugh when he is asked to reflect back on Payne. His favorite memory involves an outing he and Stewart did just after Stewart had lost the 1998 Open to Lee Janzen.
We flew to Quincy, Illinois, for D.A. Weibring's outing, and getting off the plane after having a couple beers, Payne wanted to keep going, said Leonard. And I'll just say that we did. We kept going. That was a long, long Monday outing that next day.
There's a lot of little stories in there, too, but Payne fired up a grill and started cooking cheeseburgers at about 4 a.m.
And that remains the one lasting memory that Leonard cherishes most ' Payne Stewart flipping burgers at 4 in the morning.
The burgers - were they tasty?
Leonard hesitated for a moment. Not really, he confessed.
Its going to be a difficult week for all the golfers. But its also going to be a pleasant time of reminisces, of much laughter mixed in with many sobering moments.
I think it'll be tough for some people, but I think also it's a good way to - I'll never say memories fade, but it's a good way to bring up some good old memories and a good way to remember a real class individual in our sport, said Jim Furyk.
Email your thoughts to George White
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

    @kharms27 on Instagram

    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

    @radiosarks on Twitter

    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”