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PGA Championship: Whatever happened to Bob May?

by Berry Tramel Published: August 7, 2014

Bob May tees off during the third round of the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla. (AP Photo)
Bob May tees off during the third round of the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla. (AP Photo)

The PGA Championship returns to Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, for the first time since 2000. The 2000 PGA was the tournament that almost made Bob May an unforgettable name in golf.

May is the Oklahoma State alum who battled Tiger Woods down the stretch at Valhalla.

May opened that tournament with a 72, then stunningly shot three straight rounds of 66. He finished regulation at 18-under par. Tiger needed birdies on the final two holes to force a playoff. Woods birdied the opening hole of a three-hole playoff and held off May for the title. May and Tiger finished five strokes ahead of third-place finisher Thomas Bjorn.

And this was Tiger in all his glory. He was 24 at the time and playing the greatest golf the sport ever has seen. Tiger that summer had won the U.S. Open and the British Open. He became the first player ever to win three straight majors in the same season. The next April, Woods won the Masters, giving him the Tiger Slam — he was reigning champion of all four majors.

Meanwhile, May had not won before that week at Valhalla.

“It was one memorable battle,” Woods said that day. “I enjoyed it, and I’m sure Bob did, too. It was a very special day to have two guys playing at a level you don’t see.”

May was born Oct. 6, 1968, in Lynwood, Calif. He went to OSU, was a three-time all-American and turned pro in 1991. May reached the PGA Tour in 1994. His greatest achievement other than that 2000 PGA Championship was winning the 1999 Victor Chandler British Masters on the European Tour. May suffered a back injury in 2003; he lost his PGA Tour card in 2007. His playing has dipped since then.

May now operates the Bob May Golf Academy in Las Vegas and Hawaii but still harbors hopes of returning to the tour. And he doesn’t mind talking about Valhalla.

“I have no problem talking about it,” he told West Hawaii Today last month, for a story that you can read here. “It’s something I want to share with people. Some people try to stay out of the public eye — leave-me-alone kind of deal — but professional golfers have to realize that we’re entertainers, too. That’s part of our job is to try to entertain people. We picked the job, so give it what it needs and allow people to be accessible to you to some extent.

‘It was a good battle. It was good fun. We both played hard. Unfortunately, I was spotting the best player in the world one shot. I never have feared anybody on the golf course. I respect him. I respect the way he hit the ball, but I never feared him.”

For one week, 14 years ago, May was as good as any golfer in the world. As good as the greatest golfer in the world for 72 holes. Alas, the tournament went 75.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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