Shaun Micheel: The epitome of one-and-done
PITTSFORD, New York (AP) — The press room at Oak Hill looked the same as it did 10 years ago to Shaun Micheel, with a few notable exceptions.
The Wanamaker Trophy was gone.
The empty chairs outnumbered reporters by a 5-to-1 margin.
And it was the wrong day of the week.
“I wish it wasn’t Tuesday,” he said, settling into a chair to talk about the memories of his PGA Championship victory a decade ago at Oak Hill.
The final major of the year feels more like a reunion to Micheel. He brought his wife and two children — the oldest was three months from being born when he won — along with his wife’s parents. Micheel was trying to figure out a way to get them inside the ropes so they could follow his amazing footsteps in 2003, all the way to that 7-iron on the 18th hole that stopped 2 inches from the cup and sealed his win.
“I’m anxious to show them where I had one piece of history, I guess,” he said.
It’s his only piece of history.
“One and done” takes on a new meaning when it comes to Micheel. He is among 54 players since 1970 who have only one major championship. What puts Micheel in a league of his own is that since 1970, he is the only player whose major remains his only victory.
And he hasn’t been particularly close. The only other time since Oak Hill that Micheel was in a press room on Sunday was at the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah. He was runner-up that year to Tiger Woods by five shots.
“Had you told me that when I hoisted that trophy on Sunday night ... if somebody had whispered in my ear that you’re going to become a non-exempt player on the tour, and you’re going to be a non-exempt player on the Web.com Tour, I would have told you that you were crazy,” he said. “Or thought I was dead or retired.”
Micheel had the lowest ranking (No. 169) of any player to win the PGA Championship. He had gone 163 tournaments without winning until the PGA Championship. He has gone 215 tournaments since then.
“It’s amazing, no doubt about it,” Hunter Mahan said. “It is surprising not to win again. You would figure he’d always go back to that win and figure out what he did that week, from a mental or physical perspective, and find that.”
To be sure, it’s been a frustrating ride for Micheel, some of that out of his control.
He was diagnosed with low testosterone in 2005, and said he had to go through hoops to get a therapeutic use exemption from the PGA Tour when drug testing began in 2008. Then he had surgery on his left shoulder that affected his swing. Even now, he can’t get his arm in the same position it once was.
Micheel wishes he had taken more time away to let his shoulder heal, but he kept his perspective. There are no free rides on the PGA Tour. And he’s not the only player who had to cope with an injury. Andy North’s career was hampered by 13 surgeries.
“A lot of guys can relate some personal stories that affected the way you do you work,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m so exposed out there and everything that I do — good or bad — it’s out there to be dissected.”
The record shows one win in 378 starts on the PGA Tour. And it happened to be a major championship.
Does that say more about Micheel or the PGA Championship?
“Anyone on tour can win one of these if they have a good week,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “It’s probably the best field, isn’t it? I guess it says that every player in the field who players for a living can win this tournament.”
Ogilvy, however, touched on another point that speaks to those other 377 tournaments Micheel played.
“It’s really, really hard to win regular tournaments,” he said.
This major once had a reputation of producing first-time winners, none more surprising than a PGA Tour rookie named John Daly, who got in as the ninth alternate at Crooked Stick in 1991. During one stretch, 18 players won the PGA Championship in a 19-year stretch until Tiger Woods repeated in 2000.
Micheel’s name stands out among the list of PGA champions. But so does the way he won.
You might not know much about Micheel, but there is no forgetting the shot. With a one-shot lead over Chad Campbell, he was in the first cut of rough from 175 yards out when he hit a 7-iron that stopped 2 inches from dropping into the cup.
But it was more than just that one shot. What often gets overlooked is that Micheel was atop the leaderboard the entire weekend and didn’t flinch. He shot a 68 in the second round for a two-shot lead, added a 69 to share the lead with Campbell, and closed with a 70.
“It tells me he’s a tough guy,” Mahan said. “And that he wasn’t afraid of the big moment.”
Micheel is aware of the “one-hit wonder” chatter and he doesn’t fight it. He doesn’t have as many wins as Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia or even Mahan or Brandt Snedeker. But that one trophy he has is a big one, and he wouldn’t trade it.
“I’m happy with my place in history,” he said.
What would a player rather have on his career record? Eight wins and no major, or one major as his only win? Woods had both in 1999 — one major among his eight wins — but he doesn’t dismiss Micheel’s win in the PGA Championship.
“He’s going to go down in history as a major championship winner. That just puts you automatically into another category,” Woods said. “These are the biggest events with the most pressure, the best fields on the most difficult courses. On top of that, hell, he hit one of the greatest shots you’ve ever seen on 18 to finish it off.”
Micheel returned to Oak Hill on Sunday and stopped by the marker just left of the fairway that commemorates his shot.
“There were two guys standing there, and I wanted to hit a 6-iron,” Micheel said. “But they wouldn’t let me hit a 6, so I had a 7 and came up 10 yards short of the green.”