Larry Mize presses gamely on, hitching up his drooping pants and tugging at his golf cap in frustration. Even when the ball goes in the water.
At this time last year, Larry Mize shot a 39 on the back nine at Congressional to lose the Kemper Open by a stroke to Bill Glasson. His loss here again yesterday, this time on the sixth hole of a playoff with Greg Norman, will be considered similar by many. But it isn't to Mize.
If there was anything Mize could come away with from his second straight loss here, it was that this one at least was different.
"This one was not as tough," he said. "I shot 1 under on the back nine. Last year I shot 39 and let it slip away. It's always disappointing, but I'm just going to play on.
"What makes it better is that this time I played well at a tough time."
Mize took solace in a couple of things yesterday. The first was that Greg Norman had to shoot 66 in regulation to force the playoff, while Mize shot a 69 that should have been good enough to win. The second was that Mize took Norman all the way to the sixth extra hole before losing.
There were instances in regulation where Mize could and perhaps should have won the tournament. For a while it looked as if he would, for he headed into the turn playing as if last year had not occurred. First, he got a two-putt birdie on the par-5 10th hole, the site of his demise last year. That was the spot where he found water last year, opening the door for Glasson.
"When I made the turn at 2 under I felt good," he said. "But I knew I couldn't sit back because of who was back there, and because the course was giving up good scores. When I birdied 10 I said, 'Let's just keep on going.' That hole was tough on me last year."
A bogey on the 14th was a temporary setback, because he birdied the par-5 15th and par-3 16th. On 15, he hit a short wedge to within inches. On 16, he placed a 2-iron within 12 feet. That put him 12-under, with a two-stroke lead, until Norman birdied the 17th.
Mize still could have won the tournament had he birdied 17, as well. His approach left him with a simple eight- to 10-foot putt that could have closed the door on Norman; instead, he ran it just up to the right edge of the hole and settled for par.
"That was crucial," he said. "There were two holes to play, I knew it wasn't over and I wanted the birdie. I had a good opportunity, it just didn't go in. It went right up to the edge. I wish I'd hit it just a little harder or higher."
But if he had a single swing to take back, he said, "I'd love to have the driver over on 18." Mize not only hooked the drive, he left it short. He would also take back the 5-iron he hit next, slicing it and winding up in the middle of the bunker to the front of the green. His sand shot was good under the circumstances, leaving him an 11-footer for par.
"I hit a pretty good bunker shot and a pretty good putt," he said. "It just lipped out."
There was another golfer on the course who was saying "not again" along with Mize. Mike Reid, for several holes the co-leader, once again came away without a victory, despite his round of 70. In 10 years on the PGA Tour he is still winless.
Reid, a native of Bainbridge who resides in Provo, Utah, is $13,781 away from becoming the first player in the game to win $1 million without claiming a tour title. "Well, I'm first in something at least," he said.
His 70 tied him with John Cook at nine under 279, earning $29,000. But the money was not much solace for a player who seems unable to win. Among his second-place finishes were two last year: he lost the B.C. Open by just one stroke to Joey Sindelar, and he lost the Southwest Classic in a playoff, Hal Sutton sinking a 30-foot putt on the first extra hole to win.
"Well, I've done this before," he said. "I've had this feeling a lot. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to. Earlier in my career the light in my hotel room wouldn't go off at night. It really used to get me.
"Now, I'll just look back on this, remember the good shots I made and go on."
Reid's poorest shots came at the most crucial times. He bogeyed three of the last five holes, and two of the last three. He also threatened to bogey the last one, before making stirring save on the 18th green for par.
"As many great shots as I hit, I hit an equal amount of bad ones," he said. "So it evens out, I guess."
On 18, his second shot almost went into the water. But it stopped in the rough, leaving him an uphill chip. He saved his round, and several thousand dollars, with a wedge that ran straight into the hole for par. He ended the day with a laughing shrug to the crowd, completing a round of six birdies, four bogeys and one spectacular save.
"It was one of the few good things all day," he said.