The big knock on the all-exempt PGA Tour is that it has created
an army of ants who will settle for second instead of going for
king of the hill. Do not count Bob Lohr among that number.
No, he didn't win last week's Bell Canadian Open outside
Toronto. But with one act of bravery, in one go-for-broke,
let-it-all-ride moment, he went from a guy they called "no name"
in the morning paper to instant folk Lohr.
Here's the situation: It's overtime, and the first playoff hole
is Glen Abbey's par-5 18th. Tied with Mark O'Meara, his neighbor
back home in Orlando, Lohr is looking at a 240-yard second shot
over water. Now that might not sound like much, considering the
way some of these guys hit it, but Lohr is hardly one of those
Tour gorillas who can leap over tall par-5s in a single bound.
Fact is, he's really, really short off the tee, averaging an
embarrassingly human 249 yards per drive. Most guys in his
situation would pull out an iron, lay up and fight the good
fight with a sand wedge third.
No way, said Lohr. He whipped out a three-wood, took dead aim
and--sorry, wrong number--heeled it into the drink.
Regrets? He had a few. "I'm proud of the way I finished. At the
same time, I'm sick," Lohr said.
So why did he do it? For all the right reasons, which is why
O'Meara went on to win with a routine par, while Lohr captured
the hearts and minds of the Canadians.
"Winning is everything," he explained later. "It's the way I
play baseball, basketball, the way I shoot pool. I felt like I
played well enough to win. There will be other tournaments.
Maybe the next time I won't run into somebody as hot as Mark."
Second wasn't too bad, either. It wasn't worth the $234,000
O'Meara pulled in, but Lohr's $140,000 pushed him all the way to
No. 56 from 112th on the money list, which means he can hang up
the sticks today knowing he has a free pass for all of next
It's funny that it was O'Meara who bumped off Lohr in the
playoff, since they often run into each other while fishing
behind their houses on the Butler chain of lakes. Although
they're not in the same boat when it comes to golf's wall of
fame, Lohr impressed his fishing buddy.
Both finished at 14-under-par 274, but they did it in entirely
different ways. "I know Bob is probably thinking he played
better than I did, and he may have," O'Meara said. "I just felt
like it was going to be my day."
He had one coming. Last month O'Meara was within three strokes
of the lead going into the final round of the PGA Championship,
but though he hit it like a champ all day, he didn't get a sniff
on the greens, and with a final-round 73 he had his doors blown
off by Steve Elkington. Last week was payback time.
"I didn't hit the ball as well today as I did in the final round
of the PGA," O'Meara said, "but I was two over that day and five
under today. And this is a tougher golf course. I can't explain
O'Meara was playing dumb. Jeepers, everyone in the dominion
could see that a guy who one-putts the first five holes, like
O'Meara did, holes out from a bunker on the 6th and gets it up
and down for par at the 7th just might have something going for
him. Through 13 holes, O'Meara had taken all of 15 putts. Can't
Actually, there were signs all around that it was going to be
O'Meara's week. Despite drawing the dreaded late-early
Thursday-Friday starting times, which guaranteed getting the
worst of the weather in suddenly wintry Toronto, O'Meara opened
with a 72 in the afternoon rain and followed with a brilliant 67
on a frosty Friday morning, when he needed only 24 putts.
That got the attention of Jack Nicklaus, who, in probably his
last Canadian Open, was in the same group with O'Meara and had
high praise. "He putted the ball about as good as I've seen,"
O'Meara's win was his second this season, but more important, it
was the milestone 10th in a 15-year career. O'Meara is 38, and
of all the players on Tour still in their 30's, only Nick Price
(14), Corey Pavin (13), Paul Azinger (11) and Fred Couples (11)
have won more often.
Price had every opportunity to add to his total, but even though
he came in third at Glen Abbey, he called it a moral victory.
That's something of a step backward for a man who was emperor of
the world last time he touched down in the Great White North.
Exactly one year ago on this very spot, Price claimed his last
victory. Since then, his mantra has been "It's really en joyable
to get out of the limelight." Unfortunately, once you get out,
it's not always so easy to get back in. Price now claims he is
mentally prepared to take that step. Most important, he has
changed the way he feels about the burden of being No. 1.
"There were a lot of sacrifices, but I'm ready to go back at
it," he said. The check for $88,400 that he picked up in Canada
will help because it pretty much assures a spot among the top 30
money winners and a ticket to the $3 million Tour Championship
at Southern Hills in Tulsa at the end of October. Price, who
ranks 25th with seven official events to go, won the last of his
three major titles at Southern Hills in the 1994 PGA. He said
winning there again would "turn what's been a very mediocre year
into a very good one."
Price's game plan is to play in a couple of events in Great
Britain before Tulsa, then afterward play a heavy
November-December schedule that includes stops in Morocco, the
United Arab Emir ates, Zimbabwe and South Africa. He wants to
chill for most of December and January and not crank it back up
until February. "I won't have the excuse of being burned out
next year," Price said.
Planning for the future is the name of the game for a lot of the
players this time of year. There are incentive clauses to
fulfill and Tour cards to secure. A couple of guys helped
themselves out in Canada. After missing five cuts in his
previous six starts, Hal Sutton moved to 66th from 83rd on the
money list by coming in fourth, his first top-10 finish since
February. And Brian Kamm tied for ninth to jump to 108th on the
money list, which means he is a lock to gain exempt status for
1996 by being among the final top 125.
But in the end the biggest winner was the playoff loser, Lohr.
In 11 years on Tour he has won just once, in the 1988 Walt
Disney World Classic. At the 1993 Texas Open he shared the
third-round lead, shot 64 on Sunday, then stood on the 18th
green as Jay Haas lined up a 20-foot putt to tie. "Those are the
times you're thinking, Yeah, he can make it. But in the back of
your mind you're thinking he probably won't," Lohr says. Haas
made the putt and then birdied twice to win the playoff. Lohr
looked and learned.
Last week at Glen Abbey, he knew that playing safe would be a
mistake. He had no timeouts left, the clock was running, it was
fourth-and-goal. Time to go to the Vince Lombardi quote book.
"To me, winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," Lohr
said. The only difference was, he came up a yard short.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN O'Meara joined a select group of thirtysomething players who have 10 or more Tour victories. [Mark O'Meara]
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN After Canada, both Lohr (above) and Price can afford to look to the future with confidence. [Bob Lohr; Nick Price]