John Mahaffey turned in an almost-flawless round of four-under-par 67 today in the final round of the $300,000 Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic to win the tournament by two strokes over Andy North.
"I got every break in the world out there today," said the jubilant, sunburned winner, who hadn't had a victory since the 1980 Kemper Open in Washington, D.C. "I wasn't trying to play safe, I was trying to be aggressive."
Mahaffey got off to an electric start, leaving the rest of the field fighting for second place when he birdied the second and third holes -- the latter with a 35-foot putt. The 5-foot-9 golfer made birdieing the sixth, seventh, 12th and 13th holes look easy on a 6,822-yard Kingsmill Golf Club course called unfairly difficult by some of the pros this week.
This is the inaugural Busch at Williamsburg after a 13-year run at Napa, Calif.
The 33-year-old Texan said his performance here was the result of practice and blamed his one-year PGA tour slump on his taking too much time off.
Mahaffey's winning purse of $54,000 gave him more than $1 million in lifetime earnings. He became the 28th golfer to reach that plateau. But Mahaffey played down the importance of that accomplishment, noting that if golfers like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead had been playing for today's prize money, "They would have won billions."
North, who shot a 68 for a 278 total, had his highest tour finish since his victory in the 1978 U.S. Open. Eighty-seventh on the PGA's money list, he should jump considerably with his $32,400 second-place prize. The lanky Wisconsin native acknowledged that he had held no hope of winning the tournament during the final round but was fighting with six or seven other contenders for the runner-up spot.
"John got off to such a good start that everybody was playing for second," said North, adding that bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes were the turning point in his game. North birdied the 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes.
Local favorite Curtis Strange, the host club pro who set a course record with his 64 in the third round, got off to a bad start with a bogey on the first hole and barely escaped in a tie for sixth place after his 73 today.
"To beat him (Mahaffey) today would have been tough to do," said Strange, who was in Mahaffey's threesome. "I'm telling you, he can play. . . He's one of those fellows that over the years you wonder why he hasn't won more major tournaments."
Several big-name golfers failed to make strong showings, including Ben Crenshaw, Bill Rogers and Gary Player. Defending tournament champion Crenshaw shot 72 to finish in a tie for 21st place; Rogers, who won the British Open last week, ended in a tie for 41st place and Player tied for 17th place.
Former Falls Church resident Jim Thorpe turned in the best round of the day with a five-under-par 66, but left with just $1,380 in a tie for 31st place. Thorpe, cheerfully signing autographs after his round, said the 66 made up for a week of mediocre golf.
"I'm playing very well right now. I had a lot of one-putt greens today," said Thorpe, who had strong words for Kingsmill critics, saying he wished there were more courses like it on the PGA tour. "There's no point in complaining -- there's no place else we can go this week and play for $300,000." CAPTION: Picture, John Mahaffey has just won $54,000. UPI