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COOL NICKLAUS PUTTS HIS WAY TO SENIOR OPEN CROWN

SHARE COOL NICKLAUS PUTTS HIS WAY TO SENIOR OPEN CROWN

Needing to two-putt from 35 feet on the treacherous 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.Nicklaus sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the 16th hole to inch ahead of Weiskopf, and he maintained his one-stroke advantage to the 18th. When Nicklaus hit the green, Weiskopf knew his courageous 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 21/2-footer to capture his first title since winning this event two years ago.

Asked if he ever 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. Actually, I didn't three-putt a green all week. I three-putted once or twice from the fringe, but not from on the green."

Nicklaus, 53, finished with a 1-under-par 70 for a 72-hole total of 6-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 furious flurry by Weiskopf, who birdied five of his first eight holes.

Taming the putting paralysis that had gripped him for three rounds, Weiskopf vaulted to 6-under-par for the tournament and climbed ahead of Nicklaus and Douglass.

Weiskopf's 5-under 30 on the front nine tied a Senior Open record.

Nicklaus, however, drew back into a tie for the lead with a 2-foot birdie putt at the seventh hole.

While Douglass slipped back with bogeys at the 10th and 12th holes, Nicklaus and Weiskopf, both former Ohio State golfers, stayed within a stroke of each other.

Weiskopf, a two-time runnerup to Nicklaus in the Masters who continually has played in Nicklaus' shadow, 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-3 15th stopped on the edge of the green and he three-putted for bogey.

Weiskopf failed to take advantage of a birdie opportunity at the par-5 17th hole when his tee shot sailed into the right rough and his second shot to the island green was partially blocked by trees. He had to lay up and settle for par.

Nicklaus then went ahead, hitting an 8-iron 12 feet behind the hole at No. 16 and making the putt.

"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 previous 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 overhead, he two-putted the difficult 18th for his sixth Senior Tour title, all in majors. Nicklaus also has won 18 majors on the regular tour and two U.S. Amateur titles.

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."

At Howland, Ohio, Nancy Lopez eagled the 18th to force a playoff with Deb Richard, then birdied the same hole in the playoff to win win the Youngstown-Warren LPGA Classic.

The victory was the first of the year for the Hall of Famer and the 47th of her career.

After consecutive rounds of 68, Lopez closed with a 5-under-par 67 to finish at 13-under 203 at Avalon Lakes Golf Course.

At Williamsburg, Va., Jim Gallagher Jr. ended a litany of second-place finishes by winning the Anheuser-Busch Classic.

Gallagher, four shots off the pace at the start of the day and six groups behind the leaders, closed with a 6-under-par 65. He finished the tournament at Kingsmill Golf Club at 15-under 269.