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Wealthy Beem Looks Back at His Improbable P.G.A. Championship


Search for the same old suspects — Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, and the most well liked player in the sport, Scottie Scheffler — to be in contention at this week’s P.G.A. Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.

But don’t be shocked if someone emerges out of nowhere to upstage the massive names.

In spite of everything, 20 years ago, Wealthy Beem did exactly that.

Heading into the 2002 P.G.A. Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., nobody was talking about Beem, though he had won the International tournament two weeks earlier in Colorado. People were talking about Tiger Woods, who had captured two majors that yr, and other top players.

Heading into the ultimate day of play, Beem was trailing Justin Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion, by three strokes. Woods was five back.

On Sunday, nonetheless, while Leonard struggled with a five-over 77 to complete in a tie for fourth, Beem surged.

Two shots that stood out were the 7-wood Beem hit from about 270 yards away on No. 11, a par 5, which led to an eagle, and the 35-foot birdie putt he converted at No. 16. He posted a 68 to prevail by one over Woods. It was Beem’s third victory on the tour.

Woods, after a few bogeys on the back nine, birdied the last 4 holes to place pressure on Beem — which he felt as he got able to hit his second shot on the ultimate hole.

“I literally was like, ‘Just don’t shank this in front of all these people,’” Beem said. “‘Don’t screw this up now.’”

Beem reached the putting surface along with his approach, after which got down in three putts for a bogey. After the ultimate one dropped, he did slightly dance on the green.

“I could calm down,” he said. “I could breathe again. I used to be done.”

Beem will always remember the shot at 11. Perhaps the identical might be said of Woods.

During a practice day leading as much as the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, Woods walked toward the green on No. 12. Beem was heading in the wrong way.

“Doesn’t say hi,” Beem recalled. “Doesn’t say, ‘What’s up?’”

Then, Beem said, Woods asked him:

How on earth did you get it home in two on Sunday on No. 11?

Beem didn’t miss a beat.

“If you got it, you bought it,” he said.

Leonard, who was paired with Beem in 2002, had an identical impression in regards to the approach at 11.

“That’s a shot I used to be in awe of,” Leonard recalled. “I felt like that was sort of the tournament right there.”

Not quite. Not with Woods still on the course.

Beem heard the roars while Woods was making his late rally.

“I heard them,” Beem said, “but never really considered them or desired to react to them.”

Beem was only 31, however the victory could be his last on the tour.

“I’m really bummed out about that,” he said. “That’s probably considered one of the things that eats at me greater than the rest about my profession. I probably didn’t grind as hard as I must have in some instances.”

He knew loads about grinding. Before he qualified for the PGA Tour in 1998, Beem was an assistant pro for 2 years at El Paso Country Club in Texas. His salary was about $13,000. He made roughly twice as much as that in mini-tour events in Latest Mexico and West Texas.

Before then, for about nine months, he sold cellphones and automobile stereos within the Seattle area.

Beem said he was a great phone salesman. The stereos, nonetheless, were one other matter.

“I used to be just awful,” he said. “I didn’t realize speakers were different sizes for various cars.”

Beem, 51, now works as a commentator for Sky Sports, though he hopes to compete more often on PGA Tour Champions, the circuit for skilled golfers 50 and older.

Within the meantime, being exempt as a former P.G.A. champion, he’ll tee off Thursday with the younger guys at Southern Hills. His goal is to play on the weekend.

“I’m healthy enough,” he said. “The body feels incredible. I’m very capable of creating the cut.”

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