The PGA Championship
Shaun Micheel gets up close and personal with the Wanamaker Trophy
Shaun Micheel gets up close and personal with the Wanamaker Trophy (Photo by E. Pio Roda / PGA.com)

The dawn of Shaun

Micheel captures 85th PGA Championship with clutch Sunday performance at Oak Hill Country Club

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Not many knew Shaun Micheel until this weekend. No one will forget the shot that won him the PGA Championship.

Clinging to a one-shot lead, Micheel hit a 7-iron from the first cut of rough that stopped 2 inches from the cup for a birdie and a two-stroke victory, the final touch to the most surprising season of major championships in 34 years.

From 175 yards away, the ball descended from the blue skies over Oak Hill, hopped three times and trickled toward the cup. Micheel knew it was good from the roar of the crowd.

He didn't know how good until he jogged up the steep slope of shaggy grass in front of the green and saw only 2 inches of grass between his ball and the hole. He removed his cap and waved it in celebration.

"I really can't believe this is happening to me," Micheel said. "I showed up here on Tuesday to play a practice round and saw how difficult the golf course was. I was just trying to make the cut. I probably would have been happy with that."

Winless in 163 previous starts on the PGA Tour, ranked No. 169 in the world when he arrived at Oak Hill for the final major of the year, Micheel closed with an even-par 70 and won $1.08 million.

It was a fitting end to a wild summer.

Just one month ago, 26-year-old rookie Ben Curtis, ranked 396th in the world and playing in his first major, captured the British Open.

The victory by Micheel is the first time since 1969 that the four majors were swept by players who had never won a Grand Slam event.

Mike Weir became the first Canadian and first lefty to win the Masters. Jim Furyk picked up his first major at the U.S. Open. Both were proven winners, among golf's elite.

The last two were shockers.

Micheel, who finished at 4-under 276, was playing in only his third major. At times it showed, but not when it mattered.

"Be right!" Micheel's caddie shouted as his 7-iron took flight, and it was almost perfect.

Chad Campbell, who trailed by three with four holes to play, split the middle with a pressure-packed drive on the 18th hole, knowing he needed birdie to force a playoff. Before he could hit his shot, the options became more narrow.

He had to hole the shot, and the tournament was over when his approach stopped 15 feet from the cup. Campbell made par for a 2-over 72.

Tim Clark of South Africa, tied for the lead as he made the turn, made four bogeys on the back nine and had to settle for a 69, three shots behind.

Alex Cejka of Germany, filling out the foursome of no-name players who contended for the fourth major of the year, had a 79 and was at even-par 280.

Micheel became the first player since John Daly in 1991 to make the PGA Championship his first victory, and he is the 13th winner in the last 16 years to make the PGA his first major.

He walked off the green and into the arms of his pregnant wife, Stephanie, hugging her and then kissing her belly.

The final putt was the easiest shot he had all day.

"I was sweating it coming down the stretch," Micheel said.

Micheel had to work for this one, even though he never trailed after making a 10-foot par putt on the 10th hole.

There were wild swings of momentum on each of the final six holes.

-- Campbell nearly holed out from the 13th fairway to cut the lead to one.

-- Micheel hit driver to the fringe on the 323-yard 14th hole, giving him a two-putt birdie and a three-shot lead when Campbell missed a short par putt.

-- Campbell responded with a 35-foot birdie putt on the next hole, and again cut the lead to one when Micheel three-putted for bogey.

No shot was as important as the 16th, when Micheel slugged out of the gnarly rough and ran his approach into 25 feet for an improbable birdie and a two-shot lead, a big cushion with two of the toughest holes at Oak Hill still to play.

"I had a chance there at the end, but couldn't quite catch him," Campbell said.

Micheel didn't give him one last chance.

With Rich Beem winning the PGA Championship last year at Hazeltine, the last five majors have gone to guys who had never captured golf's biggest tournaments. That's the longest streak since 1959.

Along with the $1.08 million prize, Micheel gets a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and into the other three majors. He gets to play the PGA Championship as long as he likes.

Oak Hill lived up its reputation in at least one aspect: In four previous majors, a total of seven players finished under par.

Everyone knew the champions, though -- Cary Middlecoff in the 1956 U.S. Open; Lee Trevino in the 1968 U.S. Open; Jack Nicklaus in the 1980 PGA Championship; and Curtis Strange winning his second straight U.S. Open in 1989.

Add Micheel to that list, a surprising winner any year but this one.

Tiger Woods ended his worst major championship in style with birdies on two of the final three holes and finished at 12-over 292. It was his highest score in relation to par at a major, and only the third time he was over par in all four rounds.

Walking briskly down a brick path toward the scoring room to sign for his 3-over 73, Woods said, "The suffering is over."

Oak Hill still had plenty of pain to dish out.

No one suffered quite like Weir, who was trying to become the first player since Nicklaus to win the first and final major of the season.

He was only three strokes behind and had experience on his side. What he didn't have was a club in his hand to find the fairway.

The Canadian bogeyed his first five holes and was never again a factor.

Ernie Els, with a chance to get the third leg of a career Grand Slam, got within three strokes of the lead as he made the turn. He made sloppy bogeys on two of the next three holes and meaningless pars the rest of the way.

Vijay Singh didn't make a birdie until the 14th hole, but by then he was well on his way to a 79, his second Sunday fade in a major this year. He closed with a 78 at the U.S. Open.

Those were the only guys among the top 11 on the leaderboard going into the final round who had won majors.

Then again, no experience was necessary this year.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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