With Jason Gore playing in the Rex Hospital Open this week at TPC Wakefield, here’s a little trip down memory lane. This ran in abbreviated form in the N&O the Monday after Michael Campbell won the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, a tournament Gore nearly won.
PINEHURST In 1999, the climax of the U.S. Open took place on the 18th green. Sunday, it was all over Pinehurst's No. 2 course, and fans who packed the boisterous grandstand had to resort to scoreboard-watching for their vicarious thrills.
Vijay Singh had just knocked his approach shot to about eight feet when a roar went up from the direction of the 15th hole; Tiger Woods’ birdie there was posted as Peter Jacobsen walked up the fairway pumping up the crowd.
That brought Woods within two strokes of Michael Campbell, whose par at 14 was greeted with mild applause. K.J. Choi offered a brief distraction with a chip-in birdie, but a three-punch posting stunned the crowd shortly after: Campbell's par at 15 drew oohs, Jason Gore's bogey to go 10-over drew groans and Woods' bogey at 16 drew gasps.
The crowd was still booing Gore's removal from the leaderboard when Woods' bogey at 17 went up, spawning excited murmurs that grew to a wild roar when Tiger knocked his iron shot in close and made the birdie putt.
But it was only moments later that a roar echoed down the fairway from the 17th green, where Campbell was putting. The tension was delayed when Campbell's bogey at 16 was posted to general approval -- maybe Tiger could win this after all -- but the crowd acknowledged the inevitable when Campbell's birdie at 17 was posted shortly thereafter.
As Campbell emerged from the dust blowing across the 18th fairway like Secretariat out of the fog at Woodbine, his last race, the church bells tolled "Ode to Joy" and the crowd that had so recently been against Campbell now awarded him the adulation due a champion.
The U.S. Golf Association was setting up for the trophy ceremony as Retief Goosen and Gore approached the green to cries of, "We love you, Gore!" Gore mused Friday night, after surging near the lead, that no one wanted a "no-name Nationwide Tour player" to win the Open. But as the real winner prepared to accept his trophy, the people's choice basked in no less of an ovation, having spent the past two days winning over the fans he thought would hate him.
And the crowd that staked out the 18th hole hoping to see something special went home feeling they had.