Originally created 09/06/00

A success story of different stripes



OAKVILLE, Ontario -- The Canadian Open has sold out for the first time in its 96-year history, and not because Franklin Langham is in the field.

Only one player on the PGA Tour has this kind of drawing power. Only one player has won three straight majors, has won eight tournaments in consecutive years, has earned more money in two seasons than most everyone else has in a career.

Only one player has been on the cover of Time.

Tiger Woods, however, is not the only player who can call this year a success.

Langham, who has spent half his professional career on the Buy.com Tour, has never won a major championship, or any PGA Tour event for that matter. He has yet to qualify for a Tour Championship or a World Golf Championship.

He is not Tiger Woods.

Still, Langham arrived at Glen Abbey Golf Club on Tuesday no less motivated by his own success, which has made him feel a little like Woods.

"He doesn't think about what second or third is going to get him," Langham said. "He comes out here to win. For the first time in my career, I know how he feels. When you're on top of your game, you can let it fly."

Only two years ago, Langham was still learning to walk.

A former Walker Cup teammate of David Duval and Phil Mickelson, he spent three years on the Nike Tour before finally getting to the big leagues, where he failed to keep his card and then had to work just to get back to the Nike Tour.

The only connection between Woods and Nike is the swoosh he wears on his hat and the massive contract extension he is on the verge of signing.

Langham is not Tiger Woods.

"There have been times where ... I didn't play scared, but I played cautious," said Langham, a 32-year-old from Georgia with impeccable manners. "I got to the end of the year, and I felt like if I could make three cuts in the last six tournaments I could keep my card. I made five out of six cuts, but that's all I did.

"You want to prove to your peers you belong out here. You want to prove it to yourself."

Going into the final leg of the season, Langham has done just that.

He is 17th on the money list with over $1.3 million, about $500,000 more than he earned in his three previous years on tour combined. Most players say they would trade all their money for one victory. Langham sees the bigger picture.

"Sometimes, winning just happens to you," he likes to say. It starts with getting in contention, and the money is a reflection of that. He was second at Doral, at Kemper and at Milwaukee, and was in the hunt on three other Sunday afternoons.

"I want to win out here," he said. "But my goal is not to be a one-week wonder. I want to know I played good the whole year, in every climate, in every condition. This gives me confidence that I can play out here. All the wondering ... I've put a lot of that behind me."

Woods never wondered whether he would succeed. As Langham was mopping up a difficult rookie year in 1996, Woods joined the PGA Tour at the end of the summer, won twice and made enough money to get into the Tour Championship.

But then, Langham is not Tiger Woods.

Langham is virtually a lock to make it to his first Masters because the top 40 on the money list get invited. He was born in Augusta, but only because the hospital in his tiny hometown of Thomson, Ga., didn't deliver babies.

Langham got to know enough members to play a few rounds at Augusta National, but the closest he ever got to the Masters Tournament was when, as a high school student, he posted the scores on the leaderboard behind the 16th green.

"Boy, what a tournament to play for the first time at home," he said.

Langham had a chance to clinch a spot at Augusta when he stood on the 18th tee in the final round of the PGA Championship. He had been one stroke out of the lead earlier that day until Woods and Bob May tore up the back nine, each with a 5-under 31.

Still, a par would have given Langham a tie for fourth and an automatic invitation to the Masters. There was a time he would have hit 3-wood and aimed left, away from the trouble. Langham pulled out a driver with the intention of making an eagle, hopeful the leaders might back up to him. He didn't, and they didn't.

Langham caught the edge of the water and took a bogey, dropping him into a tie for seventh.

"I got asked afterward, `Do you think it cost you Augusta?"' Langham said. "My response was, `This week might have gotten me into Augusta."'

That's because he no longer plays for his card, plays to make the cut or plays to get into a tournament. Langham now plays only to win.

In that respect, he is just like Tiger Woods.