Forget about Tiger: the story of the year is Jason Gore
Jason Gore: He's John Daly without the three ex-wives
National Post Friday, August 12, 2005 Page: S3 Section: Sports Byline: Robert Thompson Column: On Golf Source: National Post
Some think Tiger Woods is the top golf story of 2005. It is not an unreasonable assumption. He has two majors under his belt, contended in a third and, despite a dreadful start yesterday, could still challenge in the PGA Championship this weekend.
But when it comes to golf stories, Woods has been eclipsed by a chubby, 31-year-old journeyman who had considered giving up on pro golf more than a few times.
Jason Gore is the best thing to hit the sport in a long time. He's a combination of John Daly and Roy McAvoy of Tin Cup fame. He jokes with the crowd en route to shooting 59. He sits at the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard heading into the final day. He wins three straight events on the Nationwide Tour -- something that has never been done before -- and breaks into tears when he realizes the victory vaults him onto the PGA Tour. What more could one ask for?
Well, perhaps a back story that is the stuff screenplays are made from. After gaining a scholarship to the University of Arizona, the pressure of the events caused him to throw up blood brought on by stress-induced ulcers. It wasn't the only bit of bad luck to befall Gore; the day he turned pro in 1998, his father died from a heart attack.
All of this should have been enough to finish off Gore. But it didn't. He withstood everything that could be thrown at him and won a couple of times over the next five years on golf's top minor league. But 2005 didn't look like it had the makings of a great year. Gore only had conditional status on the Nationwide Tour and played marginally through the first half of the year.
Still, he qualified for the U.S. Open. Of course, being Jason Gore, even getting to the U.S. Open wasn't easy. Thieves broke into his car during the drive to North Carolina, stealing practically everything, including his underwear.
No one expected he would last more than two days at the Open, but he managed to play well and end up in the final group heading into Sunday. Everyone expected him to fold like a house of cards and to never hear from him again.
They were partly correct. He did fall apart on Sunday, shooting 84 in the last round, but Gore didn't disappear. He held his head high and went back to the Nationwide Tour.
He played fine upon his return -- tying for 17th -- and then rattled off one of the most improbable streaks in professional golf with three straight wins. Prior to the U.S. Open, Gore hadn't given any indication he was capable of such a feat. But after his rise to celebrity, anything appeared possible.
Even more remarkably, he joined that rare group of golfers who have shot 59 when he made an eagle putt on the final hole in his second round in Omaha this past week. It was a remarkable accomplishment that few others in the history of professional golf have managed to pull off. Gore's response to the achievement was typically understated: "That was pretty cool, wasn't it?"
Gore is everything Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and the other country club PGA Tour pros aren't. He's fat. He shows a lot of emotion. He clearly loves the fans that rally to support him. He's John Daly without the chain-smoking habit, the gambling problems and three ex-wives.
And while some might have thought his final round at the U.S. Open was the end of the story, Gore looked at it as a beginning.
"People kept saying I gassed it,'' Gore told the PGA Tour's Web site. "But I didn't. It was the final round of the U.S. Open. I kept saying I'd be a better player for it, that I would be back. That was the truth.'' The truth indeed. Next stop: the PGA Tour.