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Micheel Returns to Site of Big Win
While everyone at Oak Hill is focusing on the three major champions of 2013 - Adam Scott (Masters), Justin Rose (U.S. Open) and Phil Mickelson (British Open), one of the most interesting back stories of the 95th PGA Championship is Shaun Micheel.
The Memphis resident, now 44, shocked the world 10 years ago when he came away the surprise winner of the Wanamaker Trophy at the famed course in Rochester, N.Y., the last time the PGA Championship was held there.
Entering the final major of 2003 ranked 169th in the world, Micheel carded steady rounds of 69, 68, 69 and 70 to beat Chad Campbell by two strokes and win for the first - and still only - time of what has turned out to be a checkered career. He secured the PGA with one of the greatest shots in modern Grand Slam history, a 7-iron from 174 yards on Oak Hill's par-4 18th that stopped two inches from the hole for an easy tap-in birdie.
Since that moment of glory, Micheel hasn't had much success. He had a few moments, certainly, notably a runner-up finish to Tiger Woods in the 2006 PGA Championship at Medinah in Chicago, and he became only the second player in U.S. Open history to make a double-eagle, which happened during the second round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. (Nick Watney became the third player to card an "albatross" last year at the Olympic Club.)
But Micheel's career came derailed after various problems emerged in 2004. He was finally diagnosed with low testosterone in 2006 - a condition that made him feel like "a man in his mid-70s," followed by shoulder surgery in '08, an inner-ear problem, legal troubles with a crooked agent, and the death of his mother in 2010, all of which have caused him to struggle as a tour pro since his big win.
"Just something happened in '05, I kind of lost my way a little bit," he told reporters Tuesday. "'04 wasn't that bad of a year. But I guess had you told me that when I hoisted that trophy on Sunday night (in 2003) and I went back to my hotel, 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 you were crazy, or thought I was dead or retired."
Despite his current 1,040th position in the world golf ranking, he has a lifetime exemption into the PGA as a past champion. On Wednesday, Micheel, who at Oak Hill will have in attendance his wife, father, in-laws and friends for support, met with reporters and discussed his huge victory and life since then. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR: Shaun Micheel's here a decade ago is part of PGA Championship lore, joining us at the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club. You've been a PGA champion since that day but it must be extra special to be back here at Oak Hill ten years later.
SHAUN MICHEEL: Yeah, it is. As I told Doug, I wish it wasn't Tuesday that I was in here. I came back on Sunday and it's the first time I've played the golf course since that Sunday that I won. I was back one other time for an outing. A lot of memories, a lot of great memories and a lot of history between 2013 and 2003. It's definitely a place I love coming back to.
MODERATOR: Are there other specific moments that you remember a decade ago from that week?
SHAUN MICHEEL: I do. I do. Aside from the fact that I played pretty well. I had Stephanie, my wife, with me, who was six months pregnant at the time. We had a couple interesting moments. She had heartburn as pregnant women get and driving around looking for a pharmacy is the thing that stands out on Saturday night. I met the gentleman in a stretch limousine, so that was interesting. It was actually good to see him. Yeah, just everything that week obviously was about the golf in the beginning, but as I look back on it, there's a lot more that I've taken away from that week. I've said this several times: There was a lady that was to my right as we were walking off the 18th tee, and she just said, it's nice to see some up and comers. I've not met her, not sure if she's from this area of course, we are still in the Tiger and Phil era, but just something I'll never forget, Tiger in his huge run of wins, and for someone to reach out to Chad and I that way, it stuck with me.
Q. It was also pretty impressive for all of us, too. Since that moment, have you taken time with your son and your daughter to walk that walk that you walked that afternoon? I'm sure they have seen the shot but maybe walked the walk with you and to share that incredible moment?
SHAUN MICHEEL: Not yet. I'm going to work actually with Julius Mason tonight on that. They are here, and so I've been trying to figure out a way to get them out there tomorrow. My mom passed away a couple years ago, so she won't be with us, but my in laws are here, my dad's here and my two children are here. So I look forward to kind of sharing that. My nine-year-old and six year old, they are not really sure why I want to get all these pictures made, but it's for me. So I'm anxious to kind of show them kind of where I had one piece of history, I guess.
MODERATOR: Have they seen the shot from 2003? Do they have a sense of that part of history.
SHAUN MICHEEL: I think so. The biggest question that I get from my son is, you know, he's watched the video over and over of me kind of embracing Stephanie, and she was wearing that bright pink blouse and he was kissing her on the belly and the first question from him was, How did I get out of there? He's nine, so I'm not quite ready for that quite yet. He'll figure that out on his own probably. Just to go back to your question, I do look forward to kind of sharing that with him. Of course, Stephanie was walking the golf course, and of course my father and in laws to get out there and see the place where I hit that shot.
Q. Where is the 7 iron?
SHAUN MICHEEL: I have it in an old just beat up, unassuming box in my golf/guitar room. It's back home. I've been asked for it several times, but if I had done this more than once, you might have been inclined to give it to somebody. But you never know; I'm going to hold on to that one.
Q. Kind of leads to the second question, you had some injuries and then the low T thing, etc.; is it disappointing to get back here ten years later without another win, and does it make you look back at this championship that you won more fondly?
SHAUN MICHEEL: Yeah, it does. As I said, there's a lot that happens to all of us in ten years of time. You know, I remember Jeff Sluman and Bob Tway both told me after I won to enjoy that next year. You know, work hard, enjoy the win, but work hard, if not harder, and I did that. Just something happened in '05, I kind of lost my way a little bit. '04 wasn't that bad of a year. But I guess had you told me that when I hoisted that trophy on Sunday night and I went back to my hotel, 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 you were crazy, or thought I was dead or retired.
It's been frustrating I suppose. The injury, the shoulder surgery I had in '08, I just don't swing like I used to. My form just doesn't function the way that I need it to. So I was kind of in search of a lot of things of trying to figure out how to recreate my golf swing. It was always so up and down. And I can't - even to this day, I don't get my arm up. I can't get it to where it was. There were some adjustments that I had to make. My exemption was out, I ran out nine months I look back, I wish I would have taken more than a year to come back. I just wasn't competitively ready.
As you know, nobody gives you any free rides out here. You have to earn everything that you get. So I came back too early. So I do regret that. But you know, I think nothing that's happened to me over the course of time is really unique in any way. I think a lot of guys, and even all of you can maybe relate some personal stories that have maybe affected the way you do your work. Unfortunately my work, I'm so exposed out there, and everything that I do, good or bad, or any of us do, it's out there to be dissected.
It just got to the point I think in the last couple of years that I just don't think I've worked hard enough for it. You know, like 2010 was just a year that I was playing for my mom. She survived for a year and a half with cancer. She died October 21, 2010, and I was okay, but I started 2011, I just didn't have anything. I didn't have the drive. I just felt like I had played so hard for her that I just didn't have anybody to play for. I was sick of playing for myself, because that's what I had been doing for 20 years, and I guess I just realized that it was maybe a lot more fun to play for somebody when it really mattered. But guys are banged up; you know, I think I just got frustrated and I think I just haven't worked at it hard enough. I'm just beat up, I think is how I would say it.
Q. You were obviously an unknown the weekend of the PGA 10 years ago. I know it's still kind of early in the week, but do you sense that the fan support is different coming back to Rochester, being this is where you won your first major and kind of made a name for yourself? Do you think people have been more supportive, or it's been different versus other tournaments you've played in?
SHAUN MICHEEL: Yeah, going back to what I said about what I heard on the 18th hole that Sunday, yeah, I came out on Sunday to play a practice round. I kind of felt like an animal in a zoo, because everything I did, people were pointing and asking me to sign this or that. It's always nice when you're supported, especially the way things have gone in the last couple years, people haven't forgotten about me. And it's very much appreciated. Over the years, I think I've escaped relatively unscathed with what I'm going to call the one hit wonder notion. I mean, I totally get it, I really do, but I don't think people really understand that there's a process involved in winning major championship golf.
Most of the guys that play, aside from Ben Curtis, and there have been a few others that won their first championship - their first win was a major. I didn't do anything of any normalcy at all. I came here to play a golf tournament. First of all, I was excited to be in, because two to three weeks prior to this event I wasn't in. I got in and I played extremely well, and I know it's a major championship, but all of us really look at this as just another golf tournament. It's the same number of holes. There's nothing different other than the media coverage, obviously there's a huge importance, and I recognize that. I think for the fans to be out there and to be cheering me on the way that they are, knowing - I mean, true golf fans know my story. They know all of our stories, for anybody that covers it. So it is very much appreciated to get the kind of pats on the back and acknowledgment that I've been getting this week, so I really appreciate it.
Q. Do you keep in touch with Chad Campbell at all and go over that final Sunday?
SHAUN MICHEEL: No, Chad and I, I don't think we've ever really talked about that day. That was in August, and October, November, he and I got paired together in the Shark Shootout and we lost in a playoff and I think we kind of reminisced a little bit about that. But when you're in the hunt to win a golf tournament, it's all about you. You appreciate the golf that the other guys are playing but at the end of the day, you're the one that wants to win. He gave it all, and he wanted to win, as badly as I did. I guess to not even really give him a chance on the last hole to tie it up he's got a great attitude about it, but I'm not sure that anybody really reminisces with each other. I think once the week is over, everybody moves on and tries to figure out, how I'm going to win back the next one.
Q. When you started taking the medication for the low T and the Tour's drug testing started, did you have to go off it to prove that you needed it?
SHAUN MICHEEL: Yes. This all started - and I'll be brief. This all started, because in 2005, I withdrew from the Honda Classic after the first round. And I did not - I just didn't want to be out there. And it was really a process, really. The end of 2004, 2005, I was just tired. I didn't know what in the world was wrong with me. Now, my mom, people know this - maybe I shouldn't share this, but my mom had bipolar her whole life, so there was a lot of things that I saw in her that I thought, you know, maybe I'm mid 30s and maybe this is happening to me. I came to find out that's not what it was.
I sat down with my doctor; he said, look, this is what you have, let's put you on this medicine. So when the Tour drug testing policy, when I found out about it sometime the middle of 2007, I think that's when it was, at Turning Stone. I remember talking to Kelly Tilghman and we were talking about it. The first doctor I went to see, Adrian Dobs, (was) an endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins. We went through all this stuff and I brought the paperwork up that my internist had done. There's one test that she said she would have done that was a bone density test. The Tour said, well, you didn't get a bone-density test, we are not approving you for this. I came off the medicine, I came off for three or four months.
Subsequent to that, I was forced - I say I was forced. I look at it this way: I was aggravated at the time because no one was willing to accept my internist's notion that I needed this, particularly when it was at a time that it wasn't a banned substance. So I went to Emory and went to another endocrinologist and went through the whole process again, a lot of poking and prodding and just a lot of things that were personally uncomfortable, I think, to have to go through. But at the end of the day, it was either I do that, or I'm not going to be allowed to participate.
So I looked at that as, well, I'm going to do this for them. Maybe there's something else that's causing this. Ultimately, I was diagnosed as idiopathic acquired, so even the doctor that did my testing didn't know. Every year, unlike some other people, I have to give two random blood samples per year during the year at any time during the year. They can call me up at any time I have to go. They did it a couple years ago two days before Christmas. Now I understand they are doing this stuff - Olympic athletes are getting tested all the time, so it's more of an aggravation. But I kind of go along with the process. But every other year, I have to reapply for my TUE. So if there's a number that's askew from maybe the year before, they could theoretically deny my TUE.
I think all that happened, and Doug is a friend of mine from Memphis, maybe there's some things that changed after that, but it's just - I guess it just part of my job now. And I'm fine. I have a good relationship with Andy Levinson. I didn't have a good relationship with Allison at all. It got very contentious because I always felt - and I still do that the Tour should be on my side. I look at what Vijay is going through now, and we all understand that there's a process in place. But who represents me? Nobody. So if I want to fight anything, I've got to go out and hire an attorney, which I was prepared to do at the time.
It got to the point where - Allison is an attorney. I'm not, but my wife is. I told her, if you ever need to talk to me about anything that's a little questionable, I'm not going to talk to you; you can talk to Stephanie or I'll hire outside counsel. I was just fed up with it. She has since moved off to human resources, I don't know why. It was a very frustrating process for me and one that I hope really none of these guys have to go through. But maybe the Tour's learned a few things over the course of time that they could have done things a little bit better and still protected the game.
Q. Were you surprised that Vijay filed a lawsuit against the Tour?
SHAUN MICHEEL: Well, I don't know. I mean, I know what I read. Again, maybe his lawsuit is more than just, I took this deer antler spray, and yeah, I guess it was theoretically banned or the IGF 1 is banned, but maybe it's more than that. Maybe it's that nobody is out there looking out for the players. If I get fined - if I get fined by Andy, if Andy Padzer sends me a fine letter, who do I appeal it to? I appeal it to him. I don't have an independent counsel to look out for me. Some things they do are final, some things they do are just part of playing golf at a high level, I guess. I think there's more to it than maybe just him admitting he did what he did.
Q. Given all of the things that you've talked about that could happen to all of us in the space of ten years, what's your admiration for or feeling about guys who have been able to be dominant over the last ten years like Tiger and Phil? What are your thoughts about how they have been able to maintain that level?
SHAUN MICHEEL: That's what I said earlier, I'm not unique in any way, shape or form. I think that I'm playing in an era, even though my career is kind of coming towards its end for Tour golf, just how impressed I am for the amount of pressure that these guys play under week in and week out. Nobody puts more pressure on you, than you. The fact that I think Tiger will go down I think he's got three more wins to overtake Sam Snead, and I don't think anybody whether or not he gets to his 18 events to tie Jack, I don't think really mattered in my eyes. I think most of the players would agree that he is probably the best player in the history of golf. You think of the depth of the field - Ben won and Ben Curtis has gone onto win a few more tournaments.
It's so difficult to win that what he's able to and Phil is doing it. But what Tiger has been able to accomplish over the course of time will never be duplicated. He went, what, five years without missing a cut? Some people say, well, he only plays 16 or 17 weeks a year but those 16 or 17 tournaments are probably on the hardest golf courses that we play. My hat's off to him. I can't imagine what it's like to be him. I know he had a very human moment last week with his son on the green and I think that captured him as a human being. I think sometimes people forget that about some of these guys.
Q. You've had a million shots in your life, but with you, people's minds always go straight to one shot, and I was wondering what that's like, if it's always pleasant, ever annoying, ever strange, anything like that?
SHAUN MICHEEL: No, I mean, look, I'm always eager to share my story. The guys that we have been talking about today, they have so many moments. And I do have a lot of moments in my golf career that I look back on that were important to me at the time. Nothing is more important than what happened to me in '03, and it kind of brought me to a new level, but it also kind of put a lot more scrutiny, maybe on my golf. The first year that I got on the PGA Tour is December of'93, my father was caddying for me at Palm Springs and I got to the last hole and I hit - I think someone said, you need to par this hole to get your card, and it was a pretty tough hole. I hit a 6 iron in there about six feet. I think that was really the big start to my professional career.
There have been a lot of things over the course of time that I've looked back on that have affected whether it's making a cut or winning a mini Tour event and I still remember my first win as a mini Tour event. But no, I enjoy sharing my story and sharing my emotions about that particular day. I played well. I think that last shot kind of solidified the fact that I could do it, and I know I haven't done it since, and there's been I guess maybe part of me that wishes I would have bowed out a few years ago. But no, I relive that moment a lot, I really do, and to be able to share that moment with my wife and to be able to share it again tomorrow with her, it will be something that I will never, ever forget.
MODERATOR: Have you gone over and taken a look at the marker in the left rough on 18?
SHAUN MICHEEL: I went over on Sunday and there were two guys standing there, and I wanted to hit a 6, but they wouldn't let me hit a 6, so I hit a 7 and came up 10 yards short of the green. And I didn't really want to do it. Bubba Watson I think has said that he didn't want to go out and hit his shot again, and it really was kind of a once in a lifetime shot. But that particular shot was set up by all the great things that I did throughout the week, so it wasn't just the one shot. It was the winning shot, but I did some pretty good things I think just to get myself in position.
MODERATOR: 2003 PGA champion, Shaun Micheel, thank you very much.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.