Tom Weiskopf, Open champion and golf course architect, dies at 79

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Tom Weiskopfs skills in golf went beyond 16 victories on PGA Tour and his one major at Troon, the Open Championship. He was unfailingly accurate in the television booth, was candid and outspoken. He found even greater success designing golf courses.

His wife said that Weiskopf, who was 79 years old, died Saturday at his Montana home in Big Sky. In December 2020, he was diagnosed with pancreatic carcinoma.

Laurie Weiskopf reported that Tom was at The Club at Spanish Peaks last week and attended a Legacy Luncheon at the club. He was creating The Legacy: Toms Ten, which is a collection his 10 favorite par-3s.

He worked hard until the end. She said it was amazing. He had a huge life.

Weiskopf was the son of a railroad worker in Ohio. He once said that he fell for the game before he started to play. His father took him to Inverness for the 1957 U.S. Open. He was captivated by Sam Sneads pure contact.

Andy North said Sunday that he had dinner with Tom, and that he loved every minute of it. The sad part is how great he was. He hit beautiful shots every time.

Pure contact was his hallmark at Ohio State, and later on tour. At 63 , Weiskopf was tall for the era, and had a powerful, rhythmic swing that was natural and athletic. His best year was 1973, when he won seven tournaments around the globe, including the Claret Jug, and the World Series of Golf at Firestone, before it was an official tour event.

He was well-known for both the majors that he didnt win as well as the competition he faced. Particularly Jack Nicklaus from Ohio, who preceded him by a few year on tour and cast a tremendous shadow over Weiskopf for the rest of his career.

Weiskopf finished in four runner-up positions in the Masters. This was the most by any player who has not won the green jacket. The most memorable moment was 1975, when Johnny Miller and Weiskopf stood on the 16th Tee as Nicklaus shot a 40-foot birdie putt that took him to another victory.

He was well-known for his famous quote about Nicklaus: Jack knew that he was going beat you. You knew Jack would beat you. Jack knew you were going to beat him.

Even more telling was his 2008 interview with Golf Digest. Weiskopf said that going head-to-head with Jack Nicklaus during a major was similar to trying to drain the Pacific Ocean by using a teacup. You dont know if your best golf is good enough to be on the first tee.

Weiskopf was an excellent player in many areas, but he often stated that he didn’t get the best out of his talent. He blamed much of that on his addiction to alcohol, which he once said had destroyed his golf career. He considered it one of his greatest victories, and he quit alcohol in 2000.

Nicklaus once said about him, Tom Weiskopf was as talented as any player Ive ever witnessed play the tour.

He also said that he never felt passionate enough about the game of golf. His passion was the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. Weiskopf skipped 1977 Ryder Cup so that he could go sheep hunting.

His personality was characterized by his unfiltered thoughts and free spirit. His temper earned him nicknames such as the Towering Inferno , and Terrible Tom . It was largely due to his high standards in golf.

After winning the U.S. Senior Open at Congressional in 1995, he said, I couldnt accept failure when it was mine, It used to tear me apart.

1982 Western Open was Weiskopf’s last PGA Tour win. He was only one year older when he retired from the PGA Tour. He was a PGA Tour Champion player, so it was fitting that his lone major was the Senior Open, which he won by four shots over Nicklaus.

His TV commentary for CBS Masters and ABC/ESPN was all candor.

Nicklaus was at the 1986 Masters when he was charging his way to victory at 46 years old. Nicklaus was at the 16th Tee when CBS host Jim Nantz asked Weiskopf, Whats going through Jacks head right now?

Weiskopf responded with a laugh, If he thought the same way as I did, I would have won this title.

Jay Moorish, a golf course architect, partnered Weiskopf. Their first collaboration was Troon County Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. Golf Digest rated it the best new course in 1986. He completed 25 courses with Moorish, and then he worked with Phil Smith.

Weiskopf also designed Loch Lomond in Scotland, and in 2016, a renovation of North Course at Torrey Pines. Both courses were challenging at the highest level but fun for all.

His par 4 driving course is a benchmark. He got his inspiration from the Old Course at St. Andrews where he could drive four par 4s depending on the wind.

Golf Digest last summer featured Weiskopfs contributions to the game.

He said that golf was a great challenge for the mind and that there were times when he felt he could have handled it better. But I love the sport. Its fascinating to me and I love to talk about it.

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