Shaun Micheel looks at that 7-iron, tucked away in the golf room of his Collierville home, and doesn’t think about the shot.
The shot that made him a major championship winner as the No. 164th-ranked golfer in the world. The 175-yard approach shot that landed two inches from the cup at No. 18 in the final round of the 2003 PGA Championship. The shot that, 20 years later, is still part of “PGA Championship lore,” just as CBS announcer Jim Nantz described it on the broadcast.
“I think of all the 7-irons I’ve hit since,” Micheel said over the phone Wednesday night, about 12 hours before he was to take the first tee shot in the first group of the 2023 PGA Championship.
Micheel is back at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, the scene of his defining golf accomplishment ‒ and the only PGA Tour win of his career.
The anniversary has prompted Micheel, 54, to confront some of the golf demons that developed within him between now and then. There are fewer than 300 golfers in the history of the game to win a major, but he still grapples with how a great moment two decades ago didn’t lead to persistent greatness.
The Golf Channel asked Micheel ahead of this tournament if he sees himself as a great underdog or a great underachiever since he’s the rare golfer whose only win came in a major.
“Probably underachiever,” Micheel responded.
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There is regret, even though his career isn’t devoid of other feats. Micheel finished second behind Tiger Woods in the 2006 PGA Championship and then beat Woods in a match play event a month later. He made the cut more often than he didn’t on the PGA Tour, and he has 20 top-10 finishes.
Micheel has been refreshingly open about all of it this week.
“Every player wants to feel like they belong on the trophy, and I just say, I think that the guys that are on that trophy, they played for their place in the game and legacy, and I suppose I played to keep my job, and I think that’s really unfortunate,” he said during a Tuesday news conference. “I look back and I’m like, ‘That’s exactly the way I played.’ I played like every shot was life and death.”
“When you win and then your expectations change, you become I would say driven by perfection. That was my undoing,” he continued. “Golly, if I could just rewind. Who knows if it would have been different? I just did some things I wouldn’t do it…
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