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KITE CLAIMS NABISCO, CAN’T FORGET BIG 4 FOLLIES

SHARE KITE CLAIMS NABISCO, CAN’T FORGET BIG 4 FOLLIES

Tom Kite knows that his playoff victory in the ultra-rich Nabisco Championship doesn't change the past.

But it may change some minds, the 39-year-old veteran said Sunday after capping his career-best season with an extra-hole triumph over PGA champion Payne Stewart."Nothing will change the fact that I had such a poor final round in the U.S. Open," said Kite, who blew a last-round lead with an embarrassing 78 in the American national championship this summer.

It was one of a series of last-round mishaps that have so far deprived him of winning any of golf's Big Four titles.

As the final-round leader in the 1984 Masters, he hit into the water on the 12th hole. Another time, a back-nine triple bogey cost him the lead and the title in the British Open.

Then came the disaster of a triple bogey in the final round at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., in June.

"I'm sure some people thought that would end my victories out here on the PGA Tour," Kite said. "I knew in my heart it wouldn't.

"Now, everybody knows."

In proving his point, Kite also:

- Jumped past both Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus and became the top money-winner in golf history with over $5.6 million.

- Clinched the PGA Player of the Year title.

- Set a single-season earnings record of $1,395,278.

The only major award that eluded him this season was Vardon Trophy for low scoring average, and he was second on that list. Greg Norman won it with a 69.49 average and Kite averaged 69.57 shots per round.

The outcome of all those races hinged on the Nabisco Championship, golf's richest tournament with almost $3.5 million in individual prize money at stake.

Kite, who lost this event in a playoff at Pebble Beach last year, won the last official-money event of the year and a total of $625,000 when Stewart missed a four-foot par putt on the second hole of a playoff.

The huge payoff sent Kite to the head of the all-time money list with $5,600,691. He went past both Watson and Nicklaus, neither of whom played in the Nabisco event. Kite kept it in perspective.

"That's a statistic that is distorted over the years by the increase in purses," Kite said. "It would be stupid to say I've played better than Jack or Tom."

Kite's third tournament victory of the year and 13th of his career lifted him over British Open winner Mark Calcavecchia on the points list that determines Player of the Year.

Stewart rushed away from the field with a course record 29 - including a 121-yard wedge shot for an eagle-2 - on the front side.