Nick Price put Greg Norman behind him - for the second time this year - and now has Nick Faldo in his future.
Faldo, the tall Englishman who owns the British Open title, generally is regarded as the world's leading player. But Price suddenly finds himself in position to dispute that ranking.A wire-to-wire, 5-shot triumph over Norman in the Western Open on Sunday marked his second triumph in as many weeks, his third of the year and seventh around the world in the last 12 months.
He also became the first $1 million winner of the year, pushing his season's earnings to $1,037,879 with the $216,000 winner's check.
Those exploits, along with an earlier loss to Price at the Players Championship, were enough to convince Norman about who's No. 1 in the world.
Price is "doing kind of like what Freddie Couples did a year ago," Norman said. "You have to put him up there as the best player in the world."
It could be decided next week in the British Open at Sandwich, England. It will be Price's next start and Faldo will be defending.
"I'm physically and mentally exhausted," Price said after running away from the field on the Dubsdread course at Cog Hill with a closing 67 and a 269 total, 19 under par.
"The last three weeks, I think I can say they're the toughest I've had playing golf."
So Price, who grew up in what was then Rhodesia but now lives in Orlando, Fla., said he will take five days off, "not touch a club, get golf out of my mind, go fishing," before the journey to England.
The exhaustion, Price said, came from the pressure of leading throughout the tournament, suffocating heat and humidity, and the mental anguish of a controversy that surrounded his putter.
It began at the U.S. Open three weeks ago where he made a run at the title despite very poor putting.
At the same time, a problem developed with a club manufacturer to whom Price was under contract.
A change in the brand of putter Price used was desired. But he couldn't find one he liked. Finally, he borrowed one from close friend Denis Watson. It worked.
And it is still working.
"It's all the putter. I can't believe I'm putting this well," Price said.
"Nickie's on a roll. He's in the zone. He's playing with a lot of confidence. He doesn't believe he can miss a putt."
He made more than his share over the final round.
Armed with a 2-shot lead after 54 holes, Price birdied four of the first six holes in the final round and never looked back.
Included in that stretch - which Norman said "slammed the door on me" - were a couple of 25-foot putts.
And then he rammed in a 40-footer on the 10th.
"That was the turning point," Norman said. "After that, I was trying to force it."
But he didn't have much of a chance and trailed by a minimum of four strokes the rest of the way.
"Nickie just blew me out of the water," Norman said after his closing round of 70 produced a 274 total. It marked the third year in a row, and fifth time overall, Norman had been runner-up in this event.
Bob Lohr holed a bunker shot for a birdie on the final hole for a 69 and third place at 277.