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Former Open Champion Tom Weiskopf Dies Aged 79

By: | Mon 22 Aug 2022 | Comments

TOM WEISKOPF was blessed with a glorious golf swing but he was cursed with a volcanic temper.

It is one of golf's great mysteries that a man who struck the ball as well as Weiskopf, who has passed away at the age of 79, ended his career with just one major to his name. That major came at Troon in 1973, and I was there to see it. Was it really 49 years ago?

All logic would dictate that a man with a temper would never be able to win The Open - or any other tournament played on a links golf course. Bad breaks are simply part and parcel of links golf. But for that week, Weiskopf kept his cool.

There were many, many times when he did not.

He finished second at The Masters in 1969, 1972, 1974 and 1975 - and should have won them all. In 16 appearances he only missed the cut once. That came in 1980 when he took 13 shots to negotiate the par three 12th in the first round.

Standing on the tee at level par for the first round, Weiskopf took his seven-iron and struck his shot towards the shallow green guarded by three bunkers. "I thought I hit the first one good, but I had too much backspin on it," Weiskopf said.

Dropping the ball in the drop zone 20 yards short of the green, Weiskopf later commented that his ball settled into a hole: "The drop area was wet and the grass was thin. I should have gone back a few yards, but all I could think about was hitting it and getting out of there."

Weiskopf hit a sand wedge, but his third shot went straight into the water. The fifth shot was basically a rerun of his first attempt, the ball landing on the fringe and finding its way back into the watery grave. Another ball came out of the bag, but Weiskopf chipped his seventh shot into Rae's Creek without threatening the putting surface.

"When you screw up like I was doing, you just stand there until you do it right," Weiskopf said. On a few occasions he had walked off courses mid-round when the going got tough. But he was not going to do that at The Masters.

Weiskopf hit his ninth shot short of the water and watched his ball barely trickle in. Finally, shot 11 found grass on the right side of Rae's Creek. Ironic cheers followed. “There must have been a lot of English blood out there," Weiskopf said. "That's what they call 'sympathy applause.’” He then two-putted for a 13.

He carded an 85, with steam coming out of his ears. He was also runner-up at the US Open in 1976 and third at the US PGA in 1975.

He had been battling pancreatic cancer since 2020.

Tom Watson tweeted: “I send my deepest sympathies to the family of Tom Weiskopf. Will miss you and your stories. RIP my friend. PC has struck again.”

Weiskopf’s wife Laurie said he died at his home in Big Sky, Montana after working last week in his role as a course designer.

“He worked to the end,” she said. “It was amazing. He had a big life.”

Weiskopf won 16 times on the PGA Tour between 1968 and 1982. His major triumph came in 1973 at Royal Troon where he recorded a three-stroke victory over Johnny Miller and Neil Coles.

Weiskopf was a U.S. Ryder Cup Team member in 1973 and 1975. He made the team in 1977 but decided to go hunting instead of playing at Royal Lytham in the days when an American victory against Great Britain & Ireland was a foregone conclusion.

His temper earned him the nicknames “Towering Inferno” and “Terrible Tom.” He claimed it was due to his high standards. 

After winning the 1995 US Senior Open, he explained: “I could not accept failure when it was my fault. It just used to tear me up.”

Weiskopf later worked in television as an analyst for CBS and ABC/ESPN and designed more than 40 golf courses, including Loch Lomond in Scotland and a renovation of the North Course at Torrey Pines.

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Tags: The Open PGA Tour


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