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Golf: Bob May recalls epic PGA Championship battle with Tiger Woods


WAIKOLOA — Bob May knows that the questions are coming. He’s been answering them for the past few weeks, and they will only intensify over the next month.

That’s because the PGA Championship will return to Valhalla Golf Club in August, the first time it’s been played there since May’s epic three-hole playoff loss to Tiger Woods in 2000.

Despite a distinguished amateur career that included being a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State and a professional one that included a 1999 British Masters title and more than $2 million in prize winnings, it’s that runner-up performance that most golf fans remember.

May is used to it. And he has no problem handling the questions from reporters and golfers who attend his Bob May Golf Academy, which will be at Waikoloa Beach Resort this month.

“A lot of them are like, ‘Do you really want to talk about it?’ ” May said Thursday during a media day at the resort. “I have no problem talking about it. 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.”

May said that he’s done a number of interviews regarding the 2000 PGA Championship over the past few weeks. In fact, the Golf Channel sent a crew to the Big Island to follow him around the golf course for four days and collect his memories of the tournament — specifically the final round, which ESPN.com ranked among its top 25 games of the 2000s.

May shot a 66 that day and finished the final round 18 under par, which was the best in relation to par in PGA Championship history. Woods matched him, shooting 7 under par over the final 12 holes to force the playoff.

“This was probably one of the greatest duels I’ve ever had in my life,” Woods said at the time. “I’ve had a few. Hat’s off to Bob, because he played his heart out.”

Woods’ birdie on the first playoff hole proved to be the difference, but not until May just missed a desperation putt on the third playoff hole.

“It was a good battle,” May said. “It was good fun. We both played hard. Unfortunately, I was spotting the best player in the world one shot.”

Woods has won 14 major championships in a career that is still going strong. May never challenged for another major title and a back injury derailed his career. But, for one weekend and one memorable day, he went toe to toe with arguably the greatest golfer of all time.

“I never have feared anybody on the golf course,” May said. “I respect him. I respect the way he hit the ball, but I never feared him.”

Today, May tries to instill that same mental approach in his students, teaching them to fear neither players nor hazards on the golf course.

“The mental game is very important,” May said. “Most shots are missed before they even stand over the ball. People are seeing everything the architect wants them to see instead of what they want to see. You’ve really got to focus on where you want the golf ball to go.”

May is focused on where his life and career are going.

“The future for Bob May is to continue here at Waikoloa Beach Resort, hopefully multiple times per year, and to try to get back out on tour and to eventually be on the senior tour, but I’ve got five years for that,” he said.

Odds are, he’ll still be answering questions about the 2000 PGA Championship. And that’s just fine with him.