Strange, Green are two of a kind
At one point during the news conference to announce them as the two newest members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Hubert Green gestured to Curtis Strange and declared, "We're a lot alike."
He wasn't kidding. If you didn't know any better, you might have thought Green and Strange were elected to the Hall as a package deal. Their personalities, their discussions of on-course performances, their feelings about receiving the honor it was as if they were reading off the same cue cards.
Not that these guys would need 'em. Green and Strange are known for speaking from the heart. They could be the HOF's version of Statler and Waldorf, the curmudgeonly duo from "The Muppet Show" -- two brutally honest voices who are flattered that you like them, but don't really care much what you think.
To which Strange countered: "We haven't been able to tell many people [since finding out about making the Hall]. Although I will be honest with you, I've told quite a few. I go against the grain."
Always has, really. When asked what people will remember most about him, Strange said, "I hope it's a U.S. Open." That notion only makes sense, considering he won the tournament in back-to-back years, 1988 and 1989. But he couldn't stop there. "It might be putting Tiger last in the Ryder Cup singles [as captain in 2002]. Who the hell knows? It might be losing a golf tournament. I don't know. Nor do we really care at this point. Anything you've done is all part of your career. It's not good all the time. There's wins and losses."
Strange earned 17 PGA Tour wins, including those two majors, in just an 11-year span. It's an eerily similar mark to that of his newly elected counterpart, who won 19 titles and two majors -- the 1977 U.S. Open and 1985 PGA Championship. It was at the former where Green was posed with the most uncommon of golf tournament disturbances -- a death threat while playing the back nine during the final round at Southern Hills.
Easier said than done, of course. Green remembers thinking about those extenuating circumstances while trying to make birdie on 15. "The pin was in the front. I got over the putt. I'm thinking, 'Am I supposed to be shot?' Hit the putt. Didn't hear anything. I said, 'Chicken.' "
He two-putted and went on to defeat Lou Graham by one stroke. It says something about Green's resolve that he can still joke about that death threat today.
"My phone has rang three or four times since I'm sitting here, on vibrate," Green said at the news conference. "It's sort of an [indiscernible] feeling in the back of my pocket. If it's not a death threat, it's going to be a pretty good phone call, I think."
Then again, that death threat in 1977 was hardly the most serious one of Green's life. In the spring of 2003, he was diagnosed with throat cancer, but underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments and was in complete remission by the end of that year.
It all makes winning consecutive U.S. Opens pale in comparison, but Strange's most impressive feat was hardly a simple one. Since the tournament was first played in 1895, only four other men have achieved that feat -- Willie Anderson (1903-'05), John McDermott (1911-'12), Bobby Jones (1929-'30) and Ben Hogan (1950-'51).
"I was fortunate," said Strange, who beat Nick Faldo in a playoff in 1988 and won by one stroke in 1989. "The stars were aligned and I came through. It's not easy, but when you're playing well, all you can do is put yourself in position and hopefully things work out. A lot of work, a lot of stress, a lot of pressure goes along with it."
Their elections into the World Golf Hall of Fame gave Strange and Green a chance to reflect about what being in the Hall means to them, how it validates the success of their careers.
"To finally get in the Hall of Fame, it's nice," Green said. "Our record's there. We can't change it. Whatever we do in life now isn't going to make any difference."
"What we could control was our play on the golf course," Strange said. "This is I guess somewhat of a reward for longevity of success. This was out of our control, being in the Hall of Fame."
Similar tones from similar men. Like Green said, they're a lot alike.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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