Hale Irwin won the 10th Memorial Tournament today by one stroke over Lanny Wadkins and the facts were these: two of the fiercest competitors in golf played head to head into the teeth of an unmanageable wind on a Muirfield Village golf course bordering on diabolical.
On a day when gusts made it impossible to hit at the pin and balls slid across greens like ice cubes on a hardwood floor, Wadkins' two-over-par round of 74 was almost good enough. But Irwin's bogey on the 18th green for par 72 finally captured Jack Nicklaus' jewel at seven-under-par 281 for the tournament.
The final round, which began and ended with a one-stroke difference, saw the two leaders trade birdies and bogeys with equal and dramatic regularity, Irwin bogeying two of the last three holes. Only Bill Kratzert, with a 73 to finish third at 284, threatened what was otherwise a two-man show in the tournament founded by Nicklaus.
"It wasn't pretty, it wasn't too effective the last few holes, but it worked," Irwin said.
Irwin's 72-hole total of 281 was one stroke short of the course record held by Nicklaus, David Graham and Andy Bean. He earned $100,000 for his second Memorial victory. The first came in 1983. Wadkins won $60,000.
Keith Fergus, Corey Pavin and George Roges tied for fourth at two-under 286. Nicklaus, the defending champion, was beset by distractions at his own tournament and finished at 299.
Wadkins' one-shot lead at the day's start disappeared because he suffered a string of four bogeys over the middle holes. He trailed by four strokes with six to play. But Wadkins birdied the 15th and Irwin bogeyed 16 to make the final going tight.
"I still feel like it was mine to win or lose," Wadkins said. "Hale played even par. If I played even par, it was mine. I just screwed up in the middle holes."
Irwin, meanwhile, played the kind of consistent, scrambling golf that marked his week here. For the day, four birdies, four bogeys and a series of routine pars at a tournament marked by drama gave the two-time U.S. Open champion his 17th PGA tour victory.
Wadkins had taken a one-stroke lead with a 67 Saturday for eight-under-par 208. Irwin's 73 after two rounds of bogeyless 68 put him at 209. But both were finally victimized by the difficult course designed by Nicklaus.
"The conditions were very tough," Wadkins said. "I hit clubs I've never hit here before. It played that much different. A lot of shots looked good in the air. They just didn't turn out as well as I thought."
Wadkins bogeyed the eighth, ninth, 11th and 12th holes to drop to five under while Irwin remained at nine under.
"There were probably a lot of points where the momentum would shift greatly one way or another," Irwin said. " . . . They all fell in my favor. I never lost two shots to him on any occasion, but on three occasions, he gave two shots back to me. It's hard to win that way."
Irwin's tee shot at 18 went into a bunker on the left of the fairway, and his wedge fell short of the green. Another wedge came within 10 feet of the cup. Wadkins, meanwhile, had a 30-foot putt for a birdie that could have forced a playoff.
But Wadkins' putt just edged by the cup. Irwin took a long look at the scoreboard before stepping up to his putt. It ran just past the hole and he took the bogey to win.
"I was just checking," he said. "I wanted to make sure. I've made that kind of error before"
Wadkins, a streak player who won the Bob Hope Classic and L.A. Open earlier this year, had eagled 15 Saturday to tie Irwin. He went for the green at 15 in two today, but found a bunker in the right front. He chipped to within three feet and went six under par.
Irwin, with a three-stroke lead with three holes to play, then played his only really bad shot of the day. On the par-3 16th, he went for the pin instead of the fat of the green and landed in a deep bunker just in front. His chip ran past the hole and he two-putted. This time, Wadkins made the routine par.
Wadkins and Irwin played the front nine like dueling banjos with three birdies each while the rest of the field fell back. The top 15 finishers in Saturday's third round were a combined plus-36 in the final round.
Wadkins had lost his one-stroke lead on the fourth hole with a bogey to go seven under par, while Irwin made his first birdie of the day to go eight under. They traded birdie putts on five and seven.
Then came the turn. On the par-3 eighth, Wadkins began his skid. He hit his tee shot into a bunker. He chipped out into another bunker, then finally got out of the sand to within eight feet of the cup. Irwin made par to go to 10-under, while Wadkins dropped a stroke.
Both bogeyed nine, a simple par-4 that turned unmanageable in the wind. On 10, Irwin hit his second shot left of the green into the rough and got bogey. Wadkins parred. But Wadkins made his third bogey in five holes on 11 when his 20-foot putt slid past the cup.
On 12, Wadkins' tee shot on a 158-yard par 3 went into a bunker right of the green and his wedge almost ran off on the other side, leaving him a 15-foot putt. He missed. Kratzert made his birdie to move into a tie for second, and Irwin addressed his 12-foot attempt at birdie. It hit dead center, and he had a four-stroke lead with six to play.