It's hard to believe that somebody shot 36 under to win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and break Tom Kite's 90-hole scoring record. It's even harder to believe that that somebody was me. I used to tell friends that the Hope was the absolute last tournament I'd ever win. In three previous appearances, I never sniffed making the cut. Heck, the previous five best rounds of my career on Tour didn't add up to 36 under. Winning the Hope never, ever crossed my mind.
I broke several records, but I was aware of only Kite's 35 under, which he had set in 1993, my rookie year. That first season at the Hope I shot nine over and missed the cut by a mile. When I heard Kite's final tally, I thought, What have I gotten into?
I wasn't thinking about Kite's record going into the final round. I was concerned about blowing my five-shot lead. I didn't sleep well on Saturday night because I kept envisioning the Monday-morning headlines: DURANT BALLOONS and GRAPEFRUIT IN THROAT CAUSE OF DURANT'S DEMISE. Luckily I played well on Sunday and didn't have to read about a collapse. After draining a 15-footer for birdie at the 16th hole to reach 35 under, I knew I could win and break the record. I hit a good wedge at 17 to set up an easy bird, so all I had left was PGA West's 18th, an easy enough par-5.1 hit a solid approach to eight feet. My birdie putt was a blur. I was wiped out and thinking about not messing up my scorecard and getting DQ'd, which I had done once before at a mini-tour event. I missed the putt but didn't make any mistakes with the card.
I passed up last week's Nissan Open so I could celebrate the third birthday of my son, Hayes. I wonder if I would have picked up in L.A. where I had left off at the Hope. My buddies at home in Pensacola, Fla., don't think so. They say, "Joe, how the heck did you shoot 36 under? You're not that good."