- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

CHASKA, Minn. Ba-da-Beem.
Unheralded Rich Beem bagged golf's biggest game at Hazeltine yesterday, becoming the first player to drop Tiger Woods down the stretch at a major championship.
"I'm so high right now it's unbelievable," the 31-year-old Beem said after posting a final-round 4-under 68 to edge a roaring Woods by one stroke at the 84th PGA Championship. "This is so cool. I don't know when this is going to sink in. I'm just flabbergasted."
Beem, who finished at 10-under 278, came to the final hole needing a bogey to stave off Woods, who closed on a torrid four-birdie tear to post 9 under. Though Beem is notorious for his nerves, which he tries to settle with regular swills of Pepto Bismol, he ripped the longest drive of the day on Hazeltine's 457-yard closer (311 yards), bunted a short iron onto the front of the green and casually 3-putted to complete the shocking major coup.
"I told [caddie Steve Williams] after my drive on No.15 that if we birdie in, we'll win the tournament," said Woods, who used his closing spurt to card a finishing 67. "That's exactly what I did. I didn't miss a single shot coming in. We did our part, but Rich had other ideas. Once he dumped the ball on the green at No.18, I knew it was over. I figured he could shake it down in three from there."
Beem did just that, not even marking his ball before popping home the clincher from 18 inches. And then the El Paso, Texas, resident broke into a celebration that was pure Beem a soulful, eyes-closed, hip-shaking dance that perfectly defines his personality.
"I don't know what that was just spontaneous joy, I guess," said Beem, who literally came out of nowhere to win the 1999 Kemper Open and had done virtually nothing on Tour before he captured the International two weeks ago.
Collecting a pair of second-tier Tour victories is one thing. But the feat Beem pulled off yesterday, topping arguably the greatest player of all time in just his fourth major start, was absolutely stunning.
"Honestly, as I told you all week, I had no expectations of playing this good," Beem said after becoming the 12th player in the last 15 years to make the PGA Championship his first major victory. "Under the pressure and scrutiny and whatnot, I was a little nervous."
You would never have known from watching him. After saying he couldn't catch third-round leader Justin Leonard, who entered the day at 9 under three strokes clear of the eventual champion, all Beem did was go out and hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 greens on the 7,360-yard, par-72 layout.
He blew past Leonard on the 8th hole, watching in surprise like the rest of the world when the normally steady Texan baptized a ball in the lake en route to a scorecard-gouging double-bogey. Leonard imploded in Normanesque fashion, spiraling to a grisly 77 on a perfect scoring day and losing a staggering nine strokes to Beem in just 13 holes.
With Leonard reeling as he and Beem made the turn in the final pairing, it was clear the war for the Wanamaker Trophy would be waged between Beem (then at 8 under) and Woods (then at 7 under). But Beem recorded one of two tournament-defining shots at the 11th, ripping a 263-yard 5-wood onto the green in two and coasting home an 8-foot eagle putt to reach 10 under.
Beem's masterstroke seemed to shake Woods, who claimed otherwise but immediately three-putted the 13th for bogey after seeing Beem's eagle go up on the board. Woods, who struggled off the tee all week, then bogeyed the 14th after pulling a tee shot, spotting Beem a five-shot lead with five to play.
Woods then rebounded to finish like a true champion, while Beem came down the stretch facing his own personal doubt. Just Saturday, Beem admitted that if he had the lead entering Hazeltine's brutal three-hole finishing stretch, he would "probably puke." He ballooned a 9-iron to the green on the water-guarded 16th, barely coaxing his ball over the hazard. But with the entire golf community waiting for him to crumble behind the surging Woods, he then landed his second heroic haymaker, rolling home a 35-footer for birdie to all but end the tournament.
"What can I say about that putt," said Beem, who retrieved his ball from the cup and then hurled it into Lake Hazeltine in jubilation. "It was just unbelievable That came out of my wild spirit I guess."
Perhaps it was that unbridled spirit that helped Beem to stand toe-to-toe with Tiger and emerge victorious where so many more decorated players have failed before. Unlike Leonard yesterday or Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, David Duval or Retief Goosen in the recent past Beem claimed to pay no attention to Woods. Like John Daly at the 1991 PGA Championship, Beem simply seemed lost in the moment, attacking the course with booming drive after booming drive and unchecked aggression.
"I think this win is similar to John's win in that he just went out and free-wheeled it and he had nothing to lose, like I felt," Beem said.
After finishing second at a major for the first time in his already legendary career, Woods added, "Sometimes it might be a benefit to be a little naive in a situation because you've never been there before. He's won a tournament a few weeks ago, but he's never been in contention in a major."
Well, he has now. And like Bob May at the 2000 PGA Championship, he held up far better opposite Tiger than the litany of higher-profile players before him.
"When I sat up here yesterday, I didn't know if I had what it took to win it," Beem said. "Obviously, I found out today that I do, and I'm actually still surprised at myself for it."

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