Tom Weiskopf’s golf talents were not limited to his 16 PGA Tour victories and his only major tournament triumph, the British Open at Troon. In a role as an analyst on the small screen, he was known for his outspokenness and his precise analysis, and he enjoyed even more success as a golf course architect.
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Weiskopf died Saturday at his residence in Big Sky, Montana, his wife Laurie announced. In December 2020, he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 79 years old.
The son of a railroad worker from Ohio, Weiskopf once said he fell in love with the sport before he even started playing. His dad took him to the 1957 U.S. Open in Inverness and he was overwhelmed watching Sam Snead make such pure contact with the ball.
This pure contact with the ball was his trademark at Ohio State University and during his career on the PGA Tour. Tall for his days in golf, at six-foot-three, Weiskopf possessed a powerful, rhythmic swing that was natural and athletic.
He had his best year in 1973, a season in which he won seven tournaments around the world, including the British Open and the World Series of golf before they became an official tournament event.
He was also renowned for the majors he did not win and the rivals he faced, particularly Jack Nicklaus, the Ohio State star who preceded him by a few years on circuit and cast a huge shadow over Weiskopf throughout his career.
Weiskopf has finished second in the Masters four times, more than any other golfer who has ever donned the Green Jacket. In 1975, Weiskopf and Johnny Miller were together on the mound at 16e hole when they saw Nicklaus sinking a 40-foot uphill putt for a birdie that would lead him to another victory.
“Jack knew he was going to beat you. You knew Jack was going to beat you. And Jack knew you knew he was going to beat you,” Weiskopf famously said of Nicklaus.
Weiskopf was very gifted in many areas, and yet he often said that he hadn’t made the most of his talent. He attributed much of this to alcohol, which he has previously said ruined his golf career. He gave up alcohol in 2000 and considered the decision to be one of his big wins.
Weiskopf also said he had never been passionate enough about golf. His love was the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. In 1977, Weiskopf skipped the Ryder Cup in favor of sheep hunting.
Weiskopf won his last PGA Tour event in 1982 at the Western Open. His last full year at the PGA was next.
He also played on the Champions Tour, and perhaps it’s fitting that his only major tournament triumph on that Tour came at the 1995 Senior U.S. Open, by four strokes over Nicklaus. .
Weiskopf went on to work in television, CBS and ABC/ESPN. In 1986, he was covering the CBS Masters when Nicklaus began an irresistible push that would lead him to victory at the age of 46.
Nicklaus was on the 16e mound when commentator Jim Nantz asked Weiskopf to describe what might be going through Nicklaus’s head at that exact moment.
“If I knew how he thought, I would have won this championship! laughed Weiskopf.
He partnered with architect Jay Moorish in the development of golf courses, and together they built the Troon Country Club in Arizona, chosen by Golf Digest as the best new course in 1986. Weiskopf designed 25 courses with Moorish before joining Phil Smith.
Last summer, Weiskopf summed up his contribution to golf in Golf Digest magazine.
“Golf, for me, has always been such a great challenge of the mind, and there are times when I wish I had handled that challenge a little better. But I love this sport. I love talking about it and thinking about it and to me it is eternally fascinating. »