Oct. 25, 1999.
We still miss you, Payne.
Oct. 25, 1999.
We still miss you, Payne.
Off the tee, Payne Stewart was in trouble.
Just ask legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae.
Stewart’s drive leaked to the right, leaving him 196 yards to the hole and in the deep rough. McRae, who has looped for U.S. presidents, Michael Jordan and countless others for more than 70 years at Pinehurst No. 2, knew the tee shot could be fatal. (Johnny Miller thought so, too.) Stewart would have to lay up.
We all know what happened from there.
But how did Payne make the putt to win the 1999 U.S. Open?
He knew something no one else can see.
Want to make Payne’s putt?
Watch the video.
What can Pinehurst legend Willie McRae, a charter member of the Pinehurst Caddie Hall of Fame, and his pal Eddie McKenzie tell you about Pinehurst No. 2?
Quite a bit.
Among the topics? How they treat every golfer at Pinehurst, the 1951 Ryder Cup and Ben Hogan, how they read putts, and where Dead City is. Willie and Eddie Mac are always willing to share, and in this video, they do.
Until the next installment From the Caddyshack (and there will be another, including how to read Payne Stewart’s famous putt on 18), feel free to tell us about your best Pinehurst Caddie experience in the comments section below. We’ll be sure to pass them along to your favorite caddie.
Three Down, One To Go For Mickelson
Ben Crenshaw was among the millions captivated by the drama, entertainment and sheer wonder of what was unfolding on his television set early the afternoon on July 21, 2013. Six time zones away on the east coast of Scotland, Phil Mickelson marched the ancient, crusty links at Muirfield Golf Club in five-under 66 to storm from five shots behind and win the British Open going away.
Crenshaw has made golf history himself—winning two Masters and 19 PGA Tour events—and been involved from the periphery in another major story as well, captaining the United States team to victory in the 1999 Ryder Cup Match at Brookline. But watching from his home in Austin, Texas, Crenshaw was sucked into the vortex of the afternoon’s significance.
“Gosh, what a great performance,” Crenshaw says. “It was unbelievable. It was fascinating to watch. Phil made the right decisions and he played very aggressively. That second shot on 17 was one for the ages. He had confidence in that club, essentially it was a brassie, and struck it really well. It hit on the downslope and, man alive, what a great bounce, right to the middle of the green. Then he hit two beautiful shots on 18. He did so many good things. It was a special week for Phil, no question.”
It was golf theatre unlike anything the grand old course had ever seen, the roars funneling through the pine trees and engulfing the memory of polite applause from the villagers and resort guests when Hogan and Snead, Ward and Patton, Nicklaus and Palmer had passed through earlier in the century.
Payne Stewart stuck his 6-iron tee shot to 4 feet on the par-3 17th hole in the final round of the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Phil Mickelson didn’t flinch, firing his 7-iron to 6 feet. Mike Hicks, Stewart’s caddie, says he’d never heard the kind of noise he heard on 17 that day—“And I’ve worked several Ryder Cups.” NBC’s Roger Maltbie observed on-air, “It’s getting kinda wild out here.” Tiger Woods had to wait to hit his approach on 18 until the applause for Stewart and Mickelson subsided.
“At first I thought I was in a small earthquake,” says Ron Crow, a volunteer scorer who walked with the final pairing on that gray, drizzly afternoon. “The ground shook some because of the reception the gallery gave those two players.”
Stewart had just rammed home a monster putt on the 16th green, an improbable, double-breaking downhiller from 25 feet to protect his tie atop the leaderboard with Mickelson. Stewart and Hicks began surveying Stewart’s putt, and Mickelson and his caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, began analyzing Mickelson’s putt.