George Burns, former University of Maryland star so close so often in the past, broke through with a closing 69 today for his first PGA Tour triumph, winning the the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am.
While Burns wrote an end to four years of frustration, the scrambling finish along the cliffs and crags of Pebble Beach was merely another dreary tale of what might have been for Jack Nicklaus.
Burns, who joined the pro tour in 1976 with gaudy amateur credentials, won his first official tour title with a 280 total, eight strokes under par on the 6,806 yards that make up picturesque Pebble Beach Golf Links.
He won by a single stroke, that provided by a 45-foot birdie putt from the shadow of the grove of trees that loom over the 16th green. And he won in the intense pressure generated by a mad scramble down the stretch. Six men either led or shared the lead at one time, and 16 were within three shots of the lead with eight holes to play.
Nicklaus, making his first start in an attempt to come back from the poorest season of his unmatched career, started the round with an exhibition of golf reminiscent of his glory years. He was five under par for the first six holes he played and surged into the lead.
But, as quickly as he struck, just so quickly did he fall back. His swing suddenly suspect, Nicklaus lost four shots on the next three holes, taking three strokes to extricate the ball from deep rough near the eighth green and drifted disconsolately back into the pack.
He finished with an erratic 73 -- it included an eagle, three birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey -- and a 284 total, four shots back.
Dan Pohl, 24, who is considered by his fellow pros to be the longest hitter in golf, played his back nine in a spectacular 30, with birdies on his last two holes, to finish second at 281. He had a last-round five-under-par 67.
Pohl, however, played about an hour in front of Burns and the other contenders.
"I really wasn't in contention at any time," he said. "I was just trying to make some birdies and hang in there."
Burns, 30, and Ben Crenshaw won the National Team title in Florida late last year.It wasn't an official victory, but Burns called it "a stepping stone"
"I was excited about it. Ben whetted my appetite. He showed me how to win," said Burns.
Burns collected $54,000 from the purse of $300,000. He holed a bunker shot for an eagle-3 on the sixth hole, moving among the leaders, and nailed down victory with that long putt on the 16th.