Friday, June 16, 2000

Goose-bump round for Clampett




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        PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — There will be time, lots of it, for Tiger Woods, who on Thursday shot a 65, the best round ever at a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He is the prodigy, the virtuoso, the king, so good he could quibble with the way his putts were dropping lately.

        Mortals are satisfied with putts that go in. For Tiger Woods, putts must go in a certain way. “Either they go in properly,” he decided, “or you kind of scoot them in.”

        There will be time to talk about Tiger. If he is generous, he will allow other players to challenge him over the weekend.

        Today is for Bobby Clampett, who didn't figure to challenge anyone on the PGA Tour, ever again. There are hopes and there are dreams, and there are errant wishes as tangible as the fog that rolls in across the 18th fairway here from Stillwater Cove. They almost never intersect, in golf or anywhere else.

Falling into place
        Only they did Thursday for Bobby Clampett. He shot 68. It was every bit as remarkable as Woods' 65. The goose bump factor was off the charts.

        “This was almost like playing golf in heaven,” Clampett declared after the round, without a trace of overstatement.

        Consider that Clampett is 40 years old and hasn't played in an Open since 1986. His 16-year career was as disappointing as any in golf. “I never met anybody's expectations. Nor my own,” was how he described it.

        Clampett hadn't played a tournament in 21 months. In the last 10 years, he had tried to qualify for the Open exactly twice, missing both times. He made it this year as the fourth alternate, when his friend Bill Glasson gave up his spot.

        He has spent several years describing golf for CBS, not playing it. Clampett calls himself a “once-a-month golfer.” Consider, too, that Clampett grew up here, on the Monterey Peninsula, a “junior golf brat.” He couldn't afford the greens fee, but he hung around in the late afternoons, when the starter would tell him to hop on a hole or two and keep his mouth shut about it.

Back from the trenches
        He hadn't played at Pebble in five years, until he did Thursday morning at 7:50. Clampett was never who he set out to be in golf. He was never who we expected him to be. Only on Thursday, he was.

        He made a 25-foot birdie putt on the 466-yard, par-4 9th hole, his third birdie on the front 9. His eyes filled with tears. “Divine intervention,” he called it. He wobbled on the back nine, but held on with steely 10- and 6-foot par putts at Nos. 10 and 12 and a magnificent 5-wood to within 12 feet at the par-3 17th.

        The player once heaped with expectations now is playing with absolutely none. The results are encouraging.

        There is a decent chance, given his rust and the Open's nature, that Bobby Clampett will play like Jed Clampett today. Dreams, adrenaline and youthful thoughts of championships only take you so far.

        No matter. Clampett had his moment here Thursday. The native son came home and for a few hours, met up with who he once was. In the '82 Open here, Clampett finished 3rd. Who knows what heights he dreamed of reaching back then.

        “The dream is still alive,” he decided. “Just keep plugging away, and who knows?”

        Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at (513) 768-8454.

U.S. Open coverage from Associated Press
Local golf coverage at Cincinnati.com/golf



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