Lon Hinkle squandered a five-stroke lead, shot a discouraging 77 and then -- with his only birdie of the day -- won the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am golf tournament today in a three-way playoff against Mark Hayes and Andy Bean.
Hinkle's birdie came on the third extra hole, the spectacularly beautiful 17th at Pebble Beach, a par-3 jutting into the swirling surf of Carmel Bay. He scored from about 10-12 feet and apparently was too exhausted, physically and mentally, to show any emotion.
Hinkle, perhaps the biggest hitter in the game, missed a chance to nail it down on the previous hold. He missed a putt for the winning birdie from about five feet.
But that was typical of the frustrations that plagued all three men who made it into the playoff -- a playoff blacked out on television to half the country.
CBS went to regular programming in the Eastern and Central time zones while the playoff was in progress. Highlights were to be shown later in the evening.
"They thought the tournament might go on eternally, with three golfers in the sudden-death playoff, so the bosses decided to go to the regular shows," said Bill Brendle, a CBS spokesman.
Brendle said he knew of no viewer complaints about the switch to "Sixty Minutes" -- one of the highest-rated shows -- at its regular time. But WDVM-TV-9. the CBS affiliate in Washington, reported about 80 calls of protest.
Hinkle once fell three shots behind but regained a share of the lead without benefit of a birdie. Bean had a closing 69, once making up four strokes on the leader in a 90-second span, and Hayes had par 72 despite a horrendous triple-bogey seven on the 15th.
He hooked his second shot into a bunker, hit a creditable sand shot and then, incredibly, four putted from six feet. His third putt was longer than his first.
That hole cost him the tournament. He coaxed in a short birdie putt on the 18th hole to gain a tie with Hinkle and Bean at 284, four under par.
Sudden death began at the 15th hole at Pebble Beach. All three parred.
On the 16th, Bean bowed out, flying the green on his second shot, then missing a 12-foot putt for par.
Hayes' putt for a birdie from 15 feet curled three feet away and then he watched Hinkle attempt his putt for a birdie and victory.
But Hinkle, who bogeyed the first, sixth, seventh, eighth and 14th during the final round, missed the putt and they went to the 17th.
Hayes put his tee shot on the par-3, 209-yard hole 50 feet below the cup on a two-tier green, then missed from 50 feet.