Tom Kite, who set a Pebble Beach course record with a 62 in the third round, survived three straight bogeys on today's closing holes to win the $325,000 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am and move into ninth place on the all-time money list.
Sporadic rain dampened play in the final round and it had an effect on play, especially on Kite, who shot a one-over-par 73 to win by two strokes over Rex Caldwell, loser last week of the Phoenix Open in a dramatic eight-hole playoff with Bob Gilder and Calvin Peete.
It was not an easy round for Kite, the Vardon Trophy winner for the lowest score average the last two years, even though he held a six-stroke lead after eight holes.
The lead started to erode for the 33-year-old Texan on the ninth, when he bogeyed. He then bogeyed the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to see his lead shaved to the final two strokes.
Gilder, who beat Caldwell in the Phoenix Open, was still alive, down by two going to the final hole, but he put his tee shot out of bounds and wound up tied for fourth with Danny Edwards.
Kite's 72-hole score was 276. After making the turn, he had a good shot to wipe out Tom Watson's tournament record of 273, but Pebble Beach, as it has so often in the past, reached up and grabbed him and he was fortunate simply to win the fifth tournament of his career and his first in almost a year.
"I'm awfully glad to get the win," said a relieved Kite. "I got a little complacent. I got a little carried away. I guess I was a litle anxious to get my name on the trophy."
Kite said he didn't feel secure about winning until his third shot on the final hole landed on the green.
"It was that kind of day, and we all know what this golf course can do to you," he said. "When you beat Pebble, in my mind you have accomplished something. Now I know how Tom Watson felt last June."
Caldwell also shot 73 in the final round while Peete shot a 70 to tie at 278. Kite won $58,500 while Caldwell and Peete each earned $28,600. With three straight second-place finishes, Caldwell has won more than $95,000 this year.
Gilder finished with a 72 and Edwards with a 71 for 279, followed by Jack Nicklaus, who had a 72 for 280.
Watson, who won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June, finished another shot back at 281 after shooting a 69. Also finishing at 281 was young Ken Green, who led after the second round.
The winner's check gave Kite career earnings of $1,723,715, quite a sum for a man who has won only five times. But consistency has been Kite's game ever since he joined the tour. He had a string of 53 successful tournaments before he missed the cut in the Canadian Open last year.
This year, he tied for 19th in the Bob Hope Desert Classic two weeks ago and last week missed the cut at Phoenix.
Nicklaus finished fifth and won $11,700 to put his career earnings over the $4 million mark.