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The golfer that's 'beyond the Twilight Zone'

You sort through a career, looking at names of golfers, remembering them for this or that, and occasionally you come across one that flashes out at you like neon. Not because they won a lot but what it was about them that set them apart, that fascinated you, made you look twice, made you want to be where they were.

Topping that list would be Mac O'Grady, who played the PGA Tour in the 1970's and '80's, winning twice. That was after he tried 17 times to qualify for a berth on the Tour. He was known more for his eccentric behavior and brash statements than for his victories.

O'Grady was ambidextrous. Once he tried to enter a two-man better-ball tournament as both players, playing one ball lefthanded and one ball righthanded. He also asked the US Golf Association if he could remain an amateur as a lefty while playing pro golf as a righty. He got no response.

At various times during a round, he might use swings copied from Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus.

He was outspoken to the point that then PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman suspended him.

"I'm very, very weird," he said. "I play the game just for the art of it. The art of discovery, the art of seeking, the art of the real deep enthusiasm the game gives you. There's always something to learn."

He also said, "There's a certain reputation I have. They (the PGA Tour) think I'm beyond the 'Twilight Zone.' I like that."

O'Grady became a renowned golf instructor, working with a number of Tour players, including Seve Ballesteros.

Ballesteros. Now there's another fascinator. The Spaniard played only occasionally in this country, winning nine times, and it was our loss. He won 50 events on the European Tour, claiming three British Opens to go with his two Augusta Masters titles.

He was handsome, funny, defiant, with a magical short game. There was fire and blood in his golf. You could sense it. Many of them work at it. He played, with powerful passion. He reminded you of a lion out there stalking game. Once when he lost a playoff at the Masters, he cried as he walked back to the clubhouse.

Greg Norman, labeled the Great White Shark for his shark hunting adventures, had everything but good luck. For a long time, he was the No. 1 player in the world. He won 20 PGA Tour events and 14 European Tour titles and won two British Opens. If he was within five or six shots of the lead on Sunday afternoon, you had to watch because he would often close fast with something like a 65 or 66. Nobody was as exciting.

It was not the ones he won, though, that defined him. He was second four times at the Masters, twice at the British and US Opens and twice in the PGA. And it seemed someone was always making miracle shots to beat him when he appeared headed for the win. Had his luck been just a trifle better, he might have won six or eight majors.

Lee Trevino was another who never let us turn our eyes away for long. He came from a gritty Texas driving range to the tour and quickly earned the nickname Merry Mex because he was cracking jokes all around the course, always talking loud so the gallery could hear. He won 29 times on the regular tour, including seven majors, and 29 times on the seniors circuit.

Out there between the ropes, he was always on stage. At night, he had room service and, despite his jokes about the tequila from the night before, he drank very little, then only on Sunday night.

He had a loop in his swing, which enhanced his image as a figure not cut from the usual mold, but few have ever hit the ball as well as he did.

One other fascinating figure was Ben Hogan. The Hawk. He was one of the two or three best ever, winning 74 PGA Tour events, including 13 majors although he stood only 5-7 and weighed 140 pounds and his career was interrupted for months by an accident in which a bus slammed into his car.

He had an introverted personality which some say resulted from seeing his father commit suicide when Ben was nine years old. There was a steeliness about him, a chill. His concentration on the course was so deep, he once asked a playing partner what he had on a hole. The partner had aced it.