Rich Beem, golf’s Pepto-Bismol Man, did not vomit or soil his pants, literally or figuratively. He didn’t miss his face while trying to drink water, another expressed fear. Nor was he intimidated by “somebody big” as anticipated.
To hear the self-deprecating Pepto-Bismol Man all week, he had as much chance of winning the 84th PGA Championship as Enron does signing new clients.
Yet there he was that Sunday afternoon at Hazeltine, taking his usual pre-round swig of pink fluid, laughing and smiling and bombing away, eagling here and birdieing there, attacking always, letting the world feel his rapid heartbeat and, finally, dancing that awkward 18th-green jig. Hey, it’s difficult to act like you’ve been there when you haven’t.
His was an oblivious wild ride. This full-throttle Beemer had three wheels off the ground the whole way. Tiger Woods threw his whole bag at him, and he didn’t even notice. Not until the 18th fairway did he know his fairy tale would come true. Forrest Gump would’ve been more aware.
So the shock list has a new entry. Man bites dog. Ouimet handles Vardon and Ray. Fleck beats Hogan. Lois rejects Clark. Daly drives in from nowhere to beat Crooked Stick. Man goes to the moon six years before a black man plays at the Masters. And now Rich Beem – just four years removed from the club pro’s shop, just seven years after quitting golf to sell stereos and cell phones – decks Goliath.
“I’m so flabbergasted about this, you have no idea,” Beem said.
He had company all over the world. Sure, he had won The International two weeks prior, but he had never finished better than 70th in three previous majors. Beem hadn’t even played a major since June 2001. If this were a Triple Crown race, you wouldn’t have found him in the Racing Form. On top of all that, he carried a 6-wood, two 4-irons and four wedges. What, he was using Annika Sorenstam’s clubs?
The Pepto Man’s shocker, though, was not only good for golf, it was wonderful for those in golf not named Eldrick. He just poured hope throughout professional golf. He gives every everyman reason to believe. Cackling and joking all the way, Beem, more than anything else, redefined the model on how to handle a Tiger.
He beat Woods by free-wheeling and having no fear. Beware of the man who feels he has nothing to lose. What does a pit bull care? Beem’s head covers featured a lion, eagle and chicken. Only the latter didn’t fit his storyline.
“I don’t get afraid of doing something,” Beem said after making miles of putts over four days. “I just go do it.”
And he did it against (ital) the (end ital) Nike guy. Swoosh on that.
Too, he beat Woods by, of all things, not paying attention to him. Everybody else seems to quake when Woods shows up on a leaderboard. Everybody else seems to play defensively when Woods merely enters town. The Pepto Man? He ignored him, the way Woods does others in competition.
Beem played his own game, swashbuckling as it was. He was so busy tending to his own business, he didn’t notice the beast in his midst. He was too consumed by loud applause that made him feel like he was at a rock concert. “It was cool,” he said.
Woods rallied with four consecutive closing birdies, and Beem was the only person in Minnesota unaware.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know,” he said. “I was not really interested in anything like that. I was too concerned with myself. I don’t mean to sound pompous, but I was trying to control what I was doing and not worry about what he was doing.”
Ignorance was bliss here. Even Woods said it might have helped a major novice like Beem being “naive” on such a big stage. What you don’t know won’t hurt you.
Beem says he goes through a bottle of Pepto-Bismol once a week. It’s always in the bag. He swigs it before rounds, he said, “so I don’t do a No. 2 on the golf course.”
Yet, you wouldn’t know he had a single care by his attacking style. He never backed off all week. Fuzzy Zoeller questioned Beem’s constant use of a driver in a practice round and the free spirit answered, “I’ve already made more than $1.6 million this year – I’m so far ahead of the game, so why not free-wheel it a little bit? That’s kind of my style.”
John Daly, for one, noticed. He went so far as to pick up the phone and call Beem that Sunday night. Grip-and-rip Crooked Stick was on his mind.
“I saw a lot of me in you today,” Daly said.