Last week, in a curious sort of way, the impact of Tiger Woods
was even felt at the Tour event he skipped, the Buick
Invitational in La Jolla, Calif. Mark O'Meara won again, but
there was no Tiger on his tail at Torrey Pines, pushing him with
birdies. This time all that stood between O'Meara and a second
straight win was a bunch of pussycats, and on Sunday they
allowed him to shoot a pedestrian 71 and still win easily.
Nevertheless, O'Meara (right) insisted that his two-stroke
victory over a host of pretenders was every bit as special as
his high-drama triumph at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
seven days earlier. "Sure, there was a lot more media hype and
attention then because of Pebble and the celebrities, and I
guess Tiger, but this is a tremendous win for me," O'Meara said.
"Winning back-to-back is a real accomplishment."
In four weeks O'Meara has earned $710,460 to move to fourth on
the career money list with more than $8 million--without playing
particularly well. He has also turned 40 and discovered that
maturity gives him a weapon with which he can counter a number
of swing flaws. "So many times I've just gone out there and
played, and Hank Haney, who I've worked with for years, would
watch me and say, 'That is absolutely the worst score you could
have gotten,'" says O'Meara. "Now I don't necessarily have to
play great, but I'm still getting a good score by thinking my
way around the course."
After finishing 14th in the season-opening Mercedes
Championships, O'Meara has been on a tear. At the Bob Hope
Chrysler Classic he was near the lead all week and came in
fourth. At Pebble Beach he was consistency itself, with four
rounds of 67 and four postround assertions that he didn't feel
comfortable over the ball. At Torrey Pines, O'Meara shot 67, 66
and 71 before Sunday, and he was 12 under and two strokes out of
the lead. But during the final round he three-putted three times
and admitted that his ball striking graded out at C plus. That
didn't matter because, conveniently, all of the other contenders
Fittingly, seven of them finished tied for second. Three--Donnie
Hammond, David Ogrin and Duffy Waldorf--shot Sunday-low 69s and
reached 11 under par, two behind O'Meara, by birdieing the last
hole, a pooch of a par-5. (It was the easiest hole on the course
last week, averaging 4.335 strokes.) None of the other top-10
finishers was under par on the 18th. Craig Stadler, who was only
a stroke off the lead when he arrived at the final tee, made the
worst mess of the hole. After his best drive of the day, Stadler
chopped his way to a bogey. "It was a pitiful effort," he said.
Another of the runners-up, Jesper Parnevik, was equally
disconsolate. "When I was second in Phoenix, I felt like I had
won because Steve Jones was out of reach," said Parnevik, who
picked up his fourth top-five finish of the year. "This time I
feel like I lost."
O'Meara says he will use the security of an already successful
season to "free-wheel it the rest of the year." He'll be trying
to add to his 14 Tour victories--not one of which, he claims, he
would trade for a major championship, the one gap in his resume.
"I'd feel better if I was playing as well as I did last year,"
O'Meara said on Sunday, "but I can't complain about the results
COLOR PHOTO: J.D. CUBAN [Mark O'Meara]