Tom Weiskopf came from behind on the last hole of a head-to-head duel with Larry Nelson today to win the $350,000 Western Open, rolling in a seven-foot birdie putt after Nelson bogeyed.
Weiskopf's birdie completed a final round of two-under-par 70 and a record 72-hole total of 276, 12 under at Butler National Golf Club. He earned $63,000 as the first prize.
This was only his second victory in the last four years on the PGA Tour, but a 15th career triumph for Weiskopf, 40, and he now ranks fourth on the all-time money list with $2,111,056, moving past Hale Irwin.
It was a bitter finish for Nelson, who three-putted from the fringe of the green on the 442-yard 18th. Nelson missed from 12 feet in his bid to save par, which would have forced a sudden-death playoff if Weiskopf sank his putt. Weiskopf did, then leaped and thrust high his putter.
Weiskopf's 276 erased the Butler 72-hole record of 277 that Ed Fiori posted in winning a year ago. Fiori was far off the pace this time at 294.
Nelson, who will defend his PGA crown next month at Southern Hills, earned $37,800 with his total of 277.
Bob Gilder, who won the Westchester Classic last Sunday, finished third with a 69 for a 10-under 278. Currently the hottest player on the PGA Tour, Gilder is 29 under par for his last eight rounds.
Weiskopf, who had rounds of 69, 67, 70 and 70, called his performance, including his six-iron second shot at the 18th, the best of his career.
"The last shot is about as good a shot as I can play." said Weiskopf, who first won at the 1963 Western Amateur. "This is a game of mistakes and Larry made one on the final hole.".
Nelson said a spectator yelled and "threw me off" as he was hitting his approach shot to 18. The ball stopped on the front fringe. "Tom is not the easiest person to play against, but I enjoyed it from the 15th to the 18th hole," he said.
Known for his occasional temperamental flare-ups, Weiskopf said it helped that so many in the record crowd of 31,200 were supporting him.
"Maybe because I'm Peck's Bad Boy getting support like that meant a lot," said Weiskopf.
Nelson led for seven holes on the front side after Weiskopf bogeyed the second and third holes.
However, the tall Ohioan pulled even with his first birdie of the round, on the 430-yard ninth. They stayed at 10 under until Weiskopf two-putted the 478-yard, par-5 No. 12 from 40 feet for his second birdie. He kept the lead only two holes.
At 14, a 405-yard par-4, Nelson hit his approach shot inches from the hole for an easy birdie. They were tied again at 11 under. A hole later, Nelson sank a 12-foot putt for birdie and the lead he blew at 18.
Gilder saw his hopes for a Western title go down the drain when his ball landed in the water on the 13th.