Shaun Micheel: The epitome of one-and-done

The press room at Oak Hill looked the same as it did 10 years
ago to Shaun Micheel, with a few notable exceptions.

The Wanamaker Trophy was gone.

The empty chairs outnumbered reporters by a 5-to-1 margin.

And it was the wrong day of the week.

”I wish it wasn’t Tuesday,” he said, settling into a chair to
talk about the memories of his PGA Championship victory a decade
ago at Oak Hill.

The final major of the year feels more like a reunion to
Micheel. He brought his wife and two children – the oldest was
three months from being born when he won – along with his wife’s
parents. Micheel was trying to figure out a way to get them inside
the ropes so they could follow his amazing footsteps in 2003, all
the way to that 7-iron on the 18th hole that stopped 2 inches from
the cup and sealed his win.

”I’m anxious to show them where I had one piece of history, I
guess,” he said.

It’s his only piece of history.

”One and done” takes on a new meaning when it comes to
Micheel. He is among 54 players since 1970 who have only one major
championship. What puts Micheel in a league of his own is that
since 1970, he is the only player whose major remains his only
victory.

And he hasn’t been particularly close. The only other time since
Oak Hill that Micheel was in a press room on Sunday was at the 2006
PGA Championship at Medinah. He was runner-up that year to Tiger
Woods by five shots.

”Had you told me that when I hoisted that trophy on Sunday
night … if somebody had whispered in my ear that you’re going to
become a non-exempt player on the tour, and you’re going to be a
non-exempt player on the Web.com Tour, I would have told you that
you were crazy,” he said. ”Or thought I was dead or
retired.”

Micheel had the lowest ranking (No. 169) of any player to win
the PGA Championship. He had gone 163 tournaments without winning
until the PGA Championship. He has gone 215 tournaments since
then.

”It’s amazing, no doubt about it,” Hunter Mahan said. ”It is
surprising not to win again. You would figure he’d always go back
to that win and figure out what he did that week, from a mental or
physical perspective, and find that.”

To be sure, it’s been a frustrating ride for Micheel, some of
that out of his control.

He was diagnosed with low testosterone in 2005, and said he had
to go through hoops to get a therapeutic use exemption from the PGA
Tour when drug testing began in 2008. Then he had surgery on his
left shoulder that affected his swing. Even now, he can’t get his
arm in the same position it once was.

Micheel wishes he had taken more time away to let his shoulder
heal, but he kept his perspective. There are no free rides on the
PGA Tour. And he’s not the only player who had to cope with an
injury. Andy North’s career was hampered by 13 surgeries.

”A lot of guys can relate some personal stories that affected
the way you do you work,” he said. ”Unfortunately, I’m so exposed
out there and everything that I do – good or bad – it’s out there
to be dissected.”

The record shows one win in 378 starts on the PGA Tour. And it
happened to be a major championship.

Does that say more about Micheel or the PGA Championship?

”Anyone on tour can win one of these if they have a good
week,” Geoff Ogilvy said. ”It’s probably the best field, isn’t
it? I guess it says that every player in the field who players for
a living can win this tournament.”

Ogilvy, however, touched on another point that speaks to those
other 377 tournaments Micheel played.

”It’s really, really hard to win regular tournaments,” he
said.

This major once had a reputation of producing first-time
winners, none more surprising than a PGA Tour rookie named John
Daly, who got in as the ninth alternate at Crooked Stick in 1991.
During one stretch, 18 players won the PGA Championship in a
19-year stretch until Tiger Woods repeated in 2000.

Micheel’s name stands out among the list of PGA champions. But
so does the way he won.

You might not know much about Micheel, but there is no
forgetting the shot. With a one-shot lead over Chad Campbell, he
was in the first cut of rough from 175 yards out when he hit a
7-iron that stopped 2 inches from dropping into the cup.

But it was more than just that one shot. What often gets
overlooked is that Micheel was atop the leaderboard the entire
weekend and didn’t flinch. He shot a 68 in the second round for a
two-shot lead, added a 69 to share the lead with Campbell, and
closed with a 70.

”It tells me he’s a tough guy,” Mahan said. ”And that he
wasn’t afraid of the big moment.”

Micheel is aware of the ”one-hit wonder” chatter and he
doesn’t fight it. He doesn’t have as many wins as Lee Westwood,
Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia or even Mahan or Brandt Snedeker. But
that one trophy he has is a big one, and he wouldn’t trade it.

”I’m happy with my place in history,” he said.

What would a player rather have on his career record? Eight wins
and no major, or one major as his only win? Woods had both in 1999
– one major among his eight wins – but he doesn’t dismiss Micheel’s
win in the PGA Championship.

”He’s going to go down in history as a major championship
winner. That just puts you automatically into another category,”
Woods said. ”These are the biggest events with the most pressure,
the best fields on the most difficult courses. On top of that,
hell, he hit one of the greatest shots you’ve ever seen on 18 to
finish it off.”

Micheel returned to Oak Hill on Sunday and stopped by the marker
just left of the fairway that commemorates his shot.

”There were two guys standing there, and I wanted to hit a
6-iron,” Micheel said. ”But they wouldn’t let me hit a 6, so I
had a 7 and came up 10 yards short of the green.”