Bob May and Tiger Woods hug after Woods won the 2000 PGA in a playoff.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Whatever happened to that golfer who almost beat Tiger Woods the last time everybody gathered at Valhalla Golf Club for the PGA Championship?
Somebody help me with the name.
Carried a few extra pounds (don’t we all?). Tiny guy, maybe 5 feet 7. Had a bit of receding hairline. Several years older than Tiger. Hadn’t done much on the PGA Tour. Pleasant fellow, but didn’t make your quote-book glow. Wore a PING baseball cap and a loose-fitting shirt. A brown one on championship Sunday, I believe.
Not Mark Brooks. Not Steve Elkington.
Are you talking about Bob May?
That’s him. What a 14-year ride it’s been. Bob May can tell Tiger Woods a lot about what a bad back can do to destroy your golf swing. May has lived that life for more than a decade. Back problems are the primary reason May has never delivered another weekend like the one he delivered in Louisville.
May shot 72 and a trio of 66s at Valhalla in August 2000. He trailed Woods by six strokes after Thursday, five after Friday, one after Saturday and zero after 72 holes. Made an 18-foot birdie putt that made Tiger squirm on 18, even though everybody swore that Tiger never squirmed those days.
“It’s a great story,” May told the Golf Channel in one of many interviews he’s done on the duel with Woods. “The older you get, the better you were. I made a putt. He made a putt. I never even looked at the scoreboard until 18.”
May made par on all three playoff holes, but Tiger rolled in an unforgettable point-and-chase 20-foot birdie putt on 16 that gave him the victory, the fifth of the 14 he has won in his career. The PGA victory came when Woods was as unbeatable as a golfer can be, the third of his four straight majors during his Tiger Slam.
May had not won an event on the PGA Tour before coming to Valhalla – and he has not won a tournament since leaving town. He scuffled on the tour, injured his back, endured surgery, played on the Nationwide Tour, lost his card, scuffled a little more and decided the surest way he could make a living was as a teaching pro.
Shed no tears for Bob May. Now 45, he splits his time between Las Vegas and Hawaii at his teaching academy. He makes an excellent living, even though he wishes that his balky back had held off for a few more years so he could have continued to grind and eventually win on the PGA Tour.
His website says that May charges $150 for one-hour lessons, $400 for a lesson while playing nine holes and $995 to work with you for an entire day. It’s not the Wanamaker Trophy, but you don’t need a calculator to understand it’s not a bad life.
In fact, May just completed a month-long stay in Hawaii, where he had time to work in a series of interviews about what happened at Valhalla because until names start going up on the leaderboard here this week Bob May remains a story.
“I have no problem talking about (the 2000 PGA),” May told Eric Knopsnyder of West Hawaii Today. “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 we’re entertainers, too.”
If Woods has to scratch after re-injuring his back in Akron, Ohio Sunday, maybe the folks at the PGA can summon May to town. May tells everybody that he encounters that Valhalla remains one of his top golf memories. (Nice thought, but it won’t happen. May says he is still considering a comeback, but has more work to do.)
He is as anonymous today as he was when he showed up in Louisville 14 years ago. In fact, according to James Raia of PGA.com, one interviewer recently showed up at his golf academy and asked one of the first folks he saw if he could help him find Bob May.
“I’m him,” May said.
This week Bob May is more than simply him. He is the guy who nearly beat Tiger Woods when nobody was beating Tiger Woods.