2004: Maggert smiles his way around Shinnecock Hills

By Jay A. Coffin

Southampton, N.Y.

Leave it to the U.S. Open to help break Jeff Maggert out of his funk.

The quiet Texan came to Shinnecock Hills fresh off a missed cut at the Buick Classic, his seventh of the season. But Maggert has resided near the top of U.S. Open leaderboards for most of the last decade, finishing in the top 10 seven times since 1994. This year was no different at Shinnecock, a place where Maggert made his professional debut at the 1986 U.S. Open and tied for fourth at the 1995 Open.

With all his success and consistency under the strenuous conditions, Maggert still hasn’t won the championship, this year finishing third after shooting 68-67-74-72 for a 1-over-par 281 total.

(Maggert also finished third at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black).

“I had fun this week,” Maggert said. “I knew coming in I was playing well enough and I just felt like I was going to have some opportunities to play well and win.”

Maggert, 40, held the lead at 7 under par midway through the front nine Saturday but faltered and played the remaining 13 holes in 6 over, ending the round four shots behind leader Retief Goosen. Anxiously watching the drama unfold on television back in Houston was his wife, Michelle, nearly seven months pregnant with twins (doctors predict one boy and one girl). Michelle called Jeff after the round and told him she wanted to be with him for the final round. Jeff obliged and Michelle flew to Long Island late Saturday evening.

“I couldn’t watch it at home anymore,” Michelle Maggert said. “He said, ‘I want you here.’”

Maggert remained in contention most of the final round but he three-putted for bogey on the 72nd hole to shoot 72 and finish five behind Goosen. Even without victory, Michelle Maggert said she doesn’t remember the last time she saw her husband enjoy himself this much on a golf course.

“I’ve never seen him this happy,” she said. “He was smiling and happy all day. He’s really content right now.”

Maggert’s $424,604 check boosted him to No. 19 on the money list with $1,512,582 in Tour earnings, likely giving him enough to qualify for the British Open next month, probably the last major he’ll play this season. Michelle’s due date is Sept. 2 but doctors believe she could go into labor weeks earlier as is often the case with twins. If that happens, Maggert said he will not play in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in mid-August.

Maggert always has been a bit of a late bloomer, seemingly getting better with age.

“There’s a lot of great players out here that go their whole careers and never win a major,” Maggert said. “I’ve got another eight, nine, 10 years out here. If I keep playing like I have been, I feel like I’ve got some good chances to win some of these.”

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