Tom Kite, who came here mired in the worst slump of his 14-year pro golf career, completed a wire-to-wire success by shooting three-under-par 69 today to win the $400,000 MONY Tournament of Champions by six strokes.
Kite took the lead when he birdied the second hole in Thursday's opening round at La Costa Country Club, and kept it. He fell into a brief tie with Lanny Wadkins on Saturday but then made three straight birdies and was never again threatened.
Kite began the final round with a three-shot lead and boosted it to four strokes with a birdie on the 400-yard, par-4 first hole. No pursuer ever got close.
Kite, 35, missed the cut in the Masters three weeks ago with rounds of 75 and 79 and the following week he withdrew from the Houston Open after two poor rounds. He returned home and worked for a week with teaching pro Peter Kostis on flattening out his swing.
"I wanted to see improvement little by little every week," Kite said. "But I got it all at once."
His four-day score of 13-under-par 275 included a course-record-tying 64 in the opening round and a rare 18-par round on Friday.
The victory was his first in 1985, eighth of his career. In this one, he topped 26 fellow winners of PGA Tour events over the past 12 months. It brought him $72,000.
Mark McCumber finished second as a closing 70 for 281 earned him $49,000. Scott Simpson, tied with McCumber on the 18th hole, bogeyed to drop into third place with 73 -- 282 and earned $32,500.
Fourth at 283 were Mark O'Meara and Fuzzy Zoeller, who made runs at Kite on Friday and Saturday but then was plagued with a painful back, a condition he thought he had overcome through major surgery last October. Zoeller ended with a 73 and O'Meara charged in with 67.
In a separate, concurrent nine-man tournament, Peter Thomson continued his recent domination of the Seniors Tour. Thomson, like Kite the leader all the way, scored a three-stroke victory, closing with 73 for 284 and winning $30,000