Mark McCumber played it safe on his tee shot, hoping for a leisurely stroll down the 18th fairway to victory in the Doral Open in Miami.
It nearly turned into a nightmare on the course they call the Blue Monster before McCumber was safely in the clubhouse with his fourth career victory.
"I purposely drove to the right," McCumber said. "I wanted to totally eliminate the water (a lake on the left) from the hole. I wanted to play for a certain 5, a possible 4.
"I hit it just where I was aiming, about 50 yards to the right of the trees. I wanted to be that far right so I wouldn't wind up under a tree."
Moments later, McCumber said, "A CBS cameraman, wearing earphones, told me, 'Your ball is hung up in a tree.'
"Oosty (Peter Oosterhuis) said 'no way.'
"But I was in a state of shock. I lost control," McCumber said. "Sheer panic. I was in a state of panic.
"It's like you're driving along the road with your wife and family in the car and you nod off asleep. There's that moment of panic when you jerk awake."
Had the ball lodged in the 30-foot palm tree, as McCumber had been told, he faced the problem of positively identifying the ball--an extremely difficult prospect within a five-minute time limit--or facing a lost-ball situation, which would penalize him stroke and distance and send him back to the tee hitting his third shot. That would raise the probability of a double-bogey 6 on the hole and the loss of the tournament.
When he approached the tree--surrounded by hundreds of spectators--a PGA Tour official instructed McCumber to send his caddy up the tree on a ladder and attempt to identify the ball in the allotted five minutes.
McCumber was having none of it.
"The ball was never near the tree," he argued. "It's 40 yards right."
Then, he said, "someone said they had seen someone pick the ball out of the rough and run away with it."
That, too, would constitute a lost ball.
"Nobody was doing anything and the clock was running," McCumber said. "Then Jack (Nicklaus) waved at the crowd, like Moses parting the Red Sea, and they moved away."
A search for the ball was started, not in the tree but some 40 yards away where he thought he'd hit it. And it was found, in the allotted time.
McCumber laid it up short in two, played to the green in three and two-putted for a bogey 5.
Tom Kite, the last man to have a chance, trailed by one with the 18th to play. He could do no better than a par 4 and McCumber collected his fourth career PGA Tour title and his second at Doral.
He won this one, and $72,000 from the total purse of $400,000, with a 284 total, four shots under par.
As testimony to the severity of the four days of wind, it was the highest-winning score in the 24-year history of this tournament. It was the highest-winning score on the tour in at least two years. And it was the first time in at least five years that a man had won a tour title without shooting in the 60s. McCumber's scores were 70, 71, 72 and 71.
At one time or another in the final 18 holes, Kite, Nicklaus, Calvin Peete, Roger Maltbie, Frank Conner and Bill Kratzert either led or shared the lead.
Kite, with a 73, was second at 285. Nicklaus, with a 74, and Maltbie, with a 70, were the only others under par for four rounds. They tied at 287.
Amy Alcott sank a 12-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole for a one-shot victory over Betsy King in the $175,000 LPGA Tucson Open.
Alcott tied the tournament record with a five-under-par 67 and nine-under-par 279 total on the par-72, 6,248-yard Randolph Park course.
King, the tournament's 54-hole leader, just missed an eagle putt herself on the final hole and settled for a round of 69 and a 280 total.
Alcott earned $26,250 for her win, while King won $16,187.
Hollis Stacy, who missed the cut at Tucson last year, and Pat Bradley both finished at 283--four shots back. Both Stacy and Bradley posted two under 70s Sunday.
Nancy Lopez and Ayako Okamoto, both previous Tucson winners, finished at 284, five strokes off the pace.
Defending champion Chris Johnson shot an even-par 72, her best round of the tournament, and wound up 12-under at 300.