You would think the winners of the PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas – aka the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open – had hit the jackpot. I mean, the photos with the showgirls alone have to be worth it, right? Think again. Over the past decade, in more cases than not, victory in the Desert has been the high-water mark before an epic drought. Let’s take a closer look:
2000 champion, Billy Andrade. He captured the fourth win of his career and the first with the Titleist Pro V1 golf ball . . . but never won again. He missed the cut in his one start this year and his day job is TV commentator for Golf Channel.
2001 champion, Bob Estes. He won the following year, but has gone 214 tournaments without a win. At No. 128 on the money list, he is struggling to keep his card for 2011.
Here, by the way, is where it starts to get spooky . . .
2002 champion, Phil Tautarangi. Played off a medical extension for three straight years after suffering a herniated disk in 2003. Worked for PGA Tour Radio for a while. He has earned less than $45,000 in 22 Nationwide and four Tour starts this year.
2003 champion, Stuart Appleby. He’s done fairly well, winning five of his nine tournaments after Vegas, but until winning the Greenbrier Classic this summer had not won since 2006. Appleby had to use his one-time Top 25 on the Tour career money list exemption. Thanks to a final-round 59 at Greenbrier, he’s an exception to the list and has banked nearly $2 million this year.
2004 champion, Andre Stolz. Hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since 2005. Retired from tournament golf in 2006 and 2007 due to injury. He’s made a total of $25,000 the past two years on the Nationwide Tour in his comeback bid (though he has fared far better competing in his native Australia).
2005 champion, Wes Short. Hasn’t won since he went from beginning the week as an alternate to beating Jim Furyk in a playoff. A back injury has sidelined Short since Feb. 2009.
Seems like a lot of misfortune for the 2002, 2004, and 2005 champs . . .
2006 champion, Troy Matteson. He has one other victory, coincidentally at the 2009 Frys.com, which was the name of the Vegas tournament when he won it in 2006. He’s bagged $723,328 this season and will keep his card for next season.
2007 champion, George McNeill. Winless since his maiden victory. He’s won more than $1 million the past two years, but will need to finish strong to keep that streak intact with only $589,604 to date (ranks No. 141).
2008 champion, Marc Turnesa. Hasn’t finished better than T-30 since his victory. Turnesa missed all six cuts on the Tour and earned just less than $20,000 in five Nationwide Tour starts this season.
2009 champion, Martin Laird. He almost broke through with a signature win at The Barclays in August. Despite losing in a playoff, he has earned $1.75 million and looks like he may avoid the “Vegas Winner’s Curse.”
Is it a curse? Well, only three of the 10 past winners ever won again. Will this year’s winner follow in the footsteps of Tautarangi, Stolz, Short, and Turnesa? Or will they mimic the 1996 champion? You remember him, don’t you? After all, Vegas is where Tiger notched his first career victory. What curse?