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Winning is Everything

The PGA Tour in 2004 welcomed ten first-time victors, from rookies to veterans who had toiled for years
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Jimmy Smits, May/June 2005

(continued from page 3)

"That first time around [in 2001], I didn't really expect that I could win, but I expected way too much of myself," says Hensby. "I was just trying to tread water. And I really didn't have the right attitude with myself. I was pretty hotheaded, impatient. I got in my way of my own ability to play. That changed for me by 2004. I learned that there are five or six players like Tiger and Vijay out here, and they are as good as it gets. Then there are the rest of us. They have special talents. I learned that it wouldn't matter how hard I practiced, I probably could never reach their level. But that didn't mean I couldn't compete. I just needed to be myself and let my game come out, and fortunately it did [in 2004]."

The same can be said for Rod Pampling, who won in his third full season on the Tour at the International, and Heath Slocum, who also won in his third full year, at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. As rookies, Zach Johnson won the BellSouth Classic and Vaughn Taylor won the Reno-Tahoe Open. Like all the first-time winners on the PGA Tour, they joined a club whose dues are hard work and determination.

The week following his victory in Texas, Bryant sat in the lobby of the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania waiting to go out to dinner. Vijay Singh, who was tearing up the PGA Tour last year on his way to displacing Tiger Woods as the world's No. 1 player, came into the lobby with all his equipment and luggage on the way to checking in. He spotted Bryant, came over with that big, long stride and toothy grin, and congratulated him on his victory. "I didn't know if he really knew who I was," says Bryant. "I thought that was just great for him to do that. Gives you a really good feeling, like you've really made it."

With a PGA Tour victory, you have.

Jeff Williams is a sportswriter for Newsday on Long Island.

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