Needing to two-putt from 35 feet on the 18th green to win, Jack Nicklaus and many in the gallery might have thought the outcome of the U.S. Senior Open was still very much in doubt.
Not Tom Weiskopf.
After making made a 12-foot birdie putt at the 16th hole at Cherry Hills Country Club to inch ahead of Weiskopf, Nicklaus maintained his one-stroke advantage to the 18th. When he hit the green, Weiskopf knew his bid was over.
"Who can tell me when Jack Nicklaus has ever three-putted to lose a major championship or missed a putt under pressure?" Weiskopf said. "The guy is the greatest putter under pressure of all time, bar none."
Nicklaus got his par, making a 2 1/2-footer for his first title since winning this event two years ago.
Asked if he remembered three-putting to lose a tournament, Nicklaus paused and said: "I don't recall one. I've blown a few tournaments, but I don't think I've blown too many of them that way."
Nicklaus, 53, finished with a one-under-par 70 for a 72-hole total of six-under 278. Weiskopf, who closed with a 67, wound up at 279. Kermit Zarley was third, another stroke back, and Dale Douglass tied Chi Chi Rodriguez at 281.
Nicklaus, who entered the final round leading Douglass by one shot and Weiskopf by four, saw his advantage dissipate in the face of a flurry by Weiskopf, who birdied five of his first eight holes.
Taming the putting paralysis that had gripped him for three rounds, Weiskopf climbed ahead of Nicklaus and Douglass. Weiskopf's five-under 30 on the front nine tied a Senior Open record.
Nicklaus drew back into a tie for the lead with a two-foot birdie putt at the seventh hole.
While Douglass slipped with bogeys at the 10th and 12th holes, Nicklaus and Weiskopf stayed within a stroke of each other.
Weiskopf, a two-time runner-up to Nicklaus in the Masters, reclaimed the lead with his sixth birdie of the day, at No. 13. But he fell back into a tie when his tee shot at the par-three 15th stopped on the edge of the green and he three-putted.
Nicklaus then went ahead, hitting an eight-iron 12 feet behind the hole at 16 and making the putt. Weiskopf failed to take advantage of a birdie opportunity at the par-five 17th hole. He had to lay up and settle for par.
"When I got to my ball in the 16th fairway, there was mud on the right side of the ball," Nicklaus said. "I remember Johnny Miller saying if there's mud on the right side, the ball will go left. I don't know if it's true or not. I just decided I wasn't going to play to the middle of the green. If it's going off line, it's going off line, but it's going at the hole to start with. It went right over the pin."
On the putt, Nicklaus said he reminded himself not to move his head, which he had done on several missed putts during the round.
"As soon as it left the putter, I thought, 'I've made it if I read it right.' I didn't look up until it was six feet from the hole."
He played the 17th conservatively, laying up for a safe par. With thunder rumbling, he two-putted the difficult 18th for his sixth senior tour title.
Under cool, cloudy conditions on a course softened by early morning rain, Weiskopf had threatened to run off and hide.
"I gave it the best run I possibly could," he said. "I played the best four rounds of golf I have ever played under these types of conditions. I know in my mind no one played better than I did from tee to green. I just didn't putt as well as some of the other guys. Jack was just one stroke better than I was."
Nicklaus said he has been fighting a shoulder injury that threatened to end his season and possibly his competitive career.
"I haven't been able to lift my arm for six months," Nicklaus said, adding that he suspected he might have a torn rotator cuff.
"But it didn't hurt me all week. It's funny--I started swinging better and the hurt went away."
Jack Nicklaus' Major Victories
U.S. OPEN (4): 1962, 1967, 1972, 1980
MASTERS (6): 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975, 1986
BRITISH OPEN (3): 1966, 1970, 1978
PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (5): 1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980
U.S. AMATEUR (2): 1959, 1961
U.S. SENIOR OPEN (2): 1991, 1993
PGA SENIORS CHAMPIONSHIP (1): 1991