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Bob May focused on Q-School and a return to competition

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Tour Insider

Best known for battling Tiger Woods at 2000 PGA Championship, May seeks full status on PGA TOUR Champions

    Written by Bob McClelllan @bob_mcclellan

    Bob May is 54 now. His career in golf didn’t pan out the way he and many others figured it would. Which is why making it through PGA TOUR Champions Q-School this week would mean so much to him.

    “I’d love to be out there,” said May, who shot 4 under at Casablanca in Mesquite, Nevada, to finish T9 and be one of 17 players to advance to the final stage. “Golf is a game that has given me a lot and I love the competition. The guys out there … I enjoy them. It would be great to get out there and compete again. That’s why most guys are out there. That’s why we play this game, to compete.”

    The name should sound familiar. May had a legendary duel with Tiger Woods at the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. They played in the final group, and May actually shot the lower round, 65 to Woods’ 66. They went to a three-hole aggregate playoff, and Woods won by a stroke.

    Rarely has a golfer become more famous for losing. But few, if any, stared Tiger eye to eye in his heyday and held their own.

    “I was fortunate to be in the last group with him,” said May, who established himself as one of the best juniors in the country while growing up in California. “If I wasn’t staring him eye to eye it would have been, ‘Well, you weren’t playing with him.’ People in the last group with him in previous events and years faltered a little bit.

    “Yeah, I did beat him that round. I had a mindset -- and everybody kind of laughs -- but when Tiger and I got there that day we didn’t play the same golf course. The simple thing is he was gonna hit it so much farther than me. I couldn’t get in a driving contest. I could hit my irons from 6-iron on with him cuz I lead with my hands and de-loft it. But with driver he was gonna take lines I wasn’t even gonna be looking at. I wasn’t gonna compete with his drives. I was gonna stick to my plan to play the golf course.”

    May said the first hole was a prime example. There’s a big tree in the fairway 278 yards off the tee. May’s tee shot barely rolled out past the tree. May watched Woods tee off and was sure he pulled his drive into the tree. Only it “flew over it like it wasn’t there.”

    “I had 7-iron into the green and he had I wanna say like 80 yards,” May said. “Right off the bat, OK, just like what you thought. He’s gonna play a different course than you. Don’t worry about what he’s doing. Just play your game.”

    May couldn’t have known that the 2000 PGA Championship would make him a household name. In fact, he said last year was the first time he got no calls in advance of the PGA Championship. For the first 20 years after, he’d get media call after media call to relive his battle with Woods.

    This is May’s third attempt at PGA TOUR Champions Q-School. He has battled back issues that derailed his career for the better part of the past 20 years and has had multiple surgeries. About a year before COVID put professional golf on hold, he had lost feeling in his right tricep and had to have yet another surgery.

    May says he has 75-80% of his strength back and believes if his putter can get hot this week one of the five exempt spots on PGA TOUR Champions could be his.

    “I’ve been playing pretty well this year, hitting it well,” May said. “If I can get a few putts to roll in I have a very good chance.

    “It’s a golf course where you gotta shoot low. I’m driving it well right now and giving myself a chance to hit a lot of greens. My iron play is going well. If I can get my putter to get going some good things can happen.”

    May never won on the PGA TOUR. He was asked what it would mean to win on PGA TOUR Champions should he get through Q-School.

    “It would be phenomenal. It would mean the world to me,” May said. “That’s what I want to do. I would … gosh, I never really thought about it. I’m not gonna put the cart before the horse. I want to learn to trot before I run. But I’d love to have that chance to win.”