By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Golfers are often defined by those special moments. The most remarkable of shots last a lifetime. The memories are indelible.
Bob Tway knows what that’s all about.
In 1986, he produced a shot heard ‘round the world of golf. How Tway did it – and who he did it against – have become part of an enduring legend.
Tway enjoyed his greatest season in 1986. He won four times and was named Player of the Year. The victories included the PGA Championship at Inverness Club in Toledo where he produced one of those seminal moments.
The 18th hole at Inverness is a little par 4, hardly the kind that anyone would expect to have major impact. Essentially, it’s a fairway wood off the tee and a flip onto the green. Only that, as one of golf’s great short par 4s, it’s never as easy as it appears.
Tway, who was hooked up in a tight finish with Greg Norman, had whittled four strokes off Norman’s lead on the back nine. Tway hit his second shot into a greenside bunker. And then it happened. Tway holed his bunker shot for birdie and went on to win by two shots over Norman.
Remember that 1986 was the year Norman led all four major championships after 54 holes but won only the British Open. Norman, who had a history of such things, as the victim of Tway’s shot makes it all so much more intriguing.
Today, Tway is on the Champions Tour and he is frequently reminded of that day in Toledo.
“A lot,” Tway said last week at the ACE Group Championship in Naples. “People remember that shot and they remember where they were. So when they see you playing a pro-am, they bring it up.
“I was in such-and-such a place or I was there. I think that's kind of the shot that people remember me by. Obviously it's a very happy shot for me, for sure. It kind of defined my career to do that. I'm okay about talking about it.”
The late, great Payne Stewart was, too. Stewart played a couple of groups in front of the Tway-Norman pairing that day at Inverness. Stewart had just walked into the lockerroom after posting his score – he finished five shots behind the winner – when Tway was stepping into the
bunker at the 18th hole.
“He’s going to make this,” Stewart told a reporter as they stood watching a monitor awaiting Tway’s historic shot. “It’s makeable.”
How did Stewart know? In the round he had just completed moments earlier, Stewart had holed the same bunker shot.
Tway knows that he’ll always be linked to Norman because of what happened at Inverness.
“I look at it this way,” Tway said. “He played so well that he put himself in that position a lot of times. Obviously he won some, too. But I guess for myself to do it and Larry Mize to do it the very next major in '87 (Masters), that would have been tough to take. But I was happy for me and I was happy for Mizer, but I'm sure (Norman) wasn't too happy. But anyway, I think that's just golf. You just do the best you can and sometimes it turns out good and sometimes it doesn't.”
Tway is trying to do the best he can on the Champions Tour. He’s still looking for his first victory after winning eight times on the PGA TOUR.
Tway, 53, joined the Champions Tour in May 2009 and posted his best finish that year, a T2 at the Administaff Small Business Classic. After a hot start last week with a first-round 65, Tway drifted far off the pace behind winner Bernhard Langer to finish T62.
“I worked extremely hard on my game,” Tway said. “I haven't been very pleased with how I've been playing, so I spent a lot of time at it … I just thought I could play a lot better than I had been, I worked at it and hopefully I will.”
Tway spent “a couple of months” in Arizona during the winter months to sharpen his game. There were plenty of positive signs at the start in Naples, where Tway’s opening round featured a front-nine 30.
“It seems like it just kind of happens,” Tway said. “I made the eagle, then I made a nice putt and then all of a sudden you hit one close, then the next hole you get another one close …
"When it gets going like that, it does relax you a little bit sometimes and maybe that's why you continue. If I had the answer, I'd do it more often.”
Tway had the answer that day during the Summer of ’86 in Toledo and he's hoping to find it again on the Champions Tour.