Shaun Micheel still copes with regrets 20 years after a shocking PGA Championship triumph that proved to be the only PGA Tour victory of his career.
Micheel, now 54, returns this week to Oak Hill for the 105th PGA Championship haunted by what might have been after he won in 2003 while ranked 169th in the world, the lowest spot for any PGA Championship winner.
“It just took me a long time personally to get over some of the things, and to some extent 20 years later I’ve still struggled with that,” Micheel said Monday.
“I guess every player wants to feel like they belong on the trophy. I’d just say I think the guys that are on that trophy, they played for their place in the game, their legacy, and I suppose I played to keep my job.
“I think that’s really unfortunate.”
Micheel delivered a cautionary tale to a host of top golfers chasing their first Major titles this week, including seven of the world’s 15 top-ranked players – be careful what you wish for, you might get it.
Two decades ago, Micheel won his only PGA Tour victory in his 164th career start in epic underdog fashion, with a final-round 70 bringing a two-stroke triumph.
“I played like every shot was life and death and every round and every year either I was exempt or not. That just seemed to be what I was playing for,” Micheel said.
“I have so much regret in not, I guess, seeking some advice from say a Dr [Bob] Rotella [sport psychologist] or somebody. I made a lot of mistakes. That’s one of them.
“It was just tough. I look at my name on the trophy, I’m proud of it. I really am … I’ve tried to justify the name on the trophy.
“But when you win and then your expectations change and you become, I would say, driven by perfection, that was my undoing. I gave up some of the things that I was doing well, and that was managing my practice time and playing with a bunch of people, practice rounds.
“The next thing I knew I had a video camera and an alignment rod, and that’s what I did for five hours every day, and then I got hurt in 2007 and had to have shoulder surgery and missed almost a year.”
Age has brought wisdom as well as regret.
“I look in the mirror and I own everything,” Micheel said. “I look back and it’s amazing what you kind of learn as an older person, and you’re like, golly, if I could just rewind.
“Who knows if it would have been different. But I just did some things that I wouldn’t do again.”
After years of frustration, success smashed into Micheel like a freight train and he wasn’t ready for it.
“When I won one, when I won here, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was like, how in the world do I upstage what I just have accomplished?” he said.
Attention focused upon him, a shy man was thrust into a spotlight.
“I don’t like to be the centre of attention in anything,” Micheel said. “If I could just play invisible out there, that was better.”
None of the 2003 Major winners have won another Major before or since, Micheel joined by countrymen Jim Furyk and Ben Curtis and Canada’s Mike Weir in that situation.
Starting with Hal Sutton in 1983, the PGA Championship has produced 16 winners who haven’t won a Major before or since, the most of any Major over that span.
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