After I missed a four-foot putt to win the Compaq Classic on the
first hole of a playoff against Carlos Franco two weeks ago, I
told my wife, Claudia, "I just threw up on myself." Carlos beat
me on the next hole and won the tournament. I was the first to
admit that I choked, but I don't use the c-word as a derogatory
term about failure. If you haven't experienced an opportunity to
succeed, you have never felt what people call choking.
What goes on inside when you're over a four-footer in front of
thousands of people and a national TV audience? Nerves. An
incredible adrenaline rush. You might not focus on the present.
Your mind might drift. It happens to every athlete.
I recall when Payne Stewart, early in his career, finished second
a lot more often than he won and the media called him Avis. How
about all the times David Duval came up short before getting his
first Tour victory? Were they choking? No. We Tour players knew
how close they were to becoming big winners. In my first chance
to win on Tour, I lost in a playoff after missing a three-foot
putt on the second extra hole at the 1986 Bank of Boston Classic.
Three years later I birdied the last two holes to win that
Why did I choke in the playoff at New Orleans? When I left my
first putt short from 30 feet on the first extra hole, the crowd
was going crazy. I was excited to knock it in, and a little
voice said, "Go ahead." I knew I didn't have the focus I needed,
yet I didn't back off. But never did I think I was going to miss.
Afterward I felt like I was shot full of holes and bleeding, but
what happened in New Orleans is part of the game. All of life,
really. During my wedding the pastor was saying, "Blaine
McCallister, do you take Claudia to be your lawfully wedded wife,
and--" and I blurted out, "I do." He whispered, "Blaine, I'm not
finished yet." I told him, "You better get me now, I'm choking."
Blaine McCallister, 41, finished 15th at the Byron Nelson
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND