Bob Tway has been at the top of the golf world and buried beneath it, so he knows the difference between exhilaration and suffocation.
As he emerges from one of golf’s more notable slumps, Tway is breathing a little easier now and looking toward the game’s upper level with the idea of eventually returning to it.
“My philosophy,” Tway said, “was to start at the very bottom and take baby steps back up.”
In that vein, the 36-year-old pro said he wasn’t even thinking about winning the U.S. Open here at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. But he might. He enters today’s final round one stroke off the lead.
He appears to have a comfort zone at Shinnecock, where nine years ago he led the Open after the first round and contended into the back nine of the final day.
Much has happened since then. Tway looks at his craft with a new perspective, and the process of rebuilding his game, and his confidence, is more important right now than a title that he may or may not be able to win.
“I didn’t realize how much confidence means in this game until I didn’t have any,” he said. “I had everything going in ‘86, and maybe someday I’ll get back to that point.”
That was a dream year for Tway, who as a second-year pro burst on the scene and won four tournaments including the PGA Championship. He was named player of the year, and there was every reason to think he would brighten the sport for years to come.
Except that Tway, young and ambitious, wanted more. He worked on his swing, and worked some more, and tinkered, and tried this and that. Until the swing that had brought him so far no longer existed, and nothing reliable had turned up in its place.
“In the pursuit of getting better,” Tway said, “I got worse.”
He dropped from second on the money list ($652,780) in 1986 to 47th ($212,362) in 1987.
He didn’t win another tournament until the 1989 Memorial, rebounded a bit in 1990 with a victory in Las Vegas, Nev., and then dropped from sight. In 1992 he earned only $47,632, 179th on the money list and worse, he had no answers for his game’s malaise.
“There were times I wondered if it was worth it,” Tway said. “I think the only thing that kept me going was the thought that I had once played the game at a level that was good.”
Tway redirected his focus and scaled down his expectations. He consulted the only golf teacher he trusts - his college coach at Oklahoma State, Mike Holder - and got his younger brother, Scott, to start caddying for him. He took heart from his wife, Tammie, and young son and daughter.
Tway won only $114,000 (146th place) in 1994, but felt his game start to come around. He started well this year and made his big breakthrough in April when he won the MCI Heritage Classic in April. It brought him $234,000, and some much needed confidence.
“When I won Hilton Head, it meant so much more to me than the PGA,” he said. “‘Golf is a tough game,” he said. “Good things have to happen for you to win.”He’s due for a few.
Hallberg fires an ace
Gary Hallberg made a hole-in-one at the par-3 seventh hole, which played at 183 yards. His 5-iron shot took two bounces before rolling into the cup.
It was the sixth career ace for Hallberg, all in the last two and a half years; it was the first at Shinnecock in seven U.S. Golf Association events. It was the 27th known hole-in-one in Open history and the first since 1993.
There were three amateurs in the field for the 1995 U.S. Open and none made the cut, the fifth time that has happened.
The amateur-less Opens in the final rounds were in 1963, 1969, 1987 and 1992.
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