Tom Weiskopf’s golf prowess went far beyond his 16 wins on the PGA Tour and his lone major at Royal Troon in the Open Championship. He was candid and precise in the TV booth and found even greater success designing golf courses.
Weiskopf died Saturday at his home in Big Sky, Montana, his wife said. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2020. He was 79 years old.
Laurie Weiskopf said Tom worked last week at The Club at Spanish Peaks and attended a legacy luncheon at a club where he is designing a collection of his 10 favorite par 3s.
“He worked until the end. It was amazing,” she said. “He had a great life.”
The son of a railroad worker in Ohio, Weiskopf once said he fell in love with the game before he even started playing. His father took him to the 1957 US Open at Inverness and he was mesmerized watching Sam Snead make such clean contact.
Clean contact was his hallmark at Ohio State and then his career on tour. At 6-foot-3 — tall for golf in that era — Weiskopf had a swing that was powerful and rhythmic. His best year was in 1973, when he won seven times around the world, including the claret jug and the World Series of Golf at Flintstone before it was an official tour event.
He was known as much for the majors he didn’t win as for the competition he faced — especially Jack Nicklaus, the Ohio star who preceded him and cast an enormous shadow over Weiskopf throughout his career.
Weiskopf had four runners-up in the Masters, the most of any player without having won the green jacket. Most memorable was in 1975, when Weiskopf and Johnny Miller stood on the 16th tee as they watched Nicklaus hole a 40-foot birdie putt up the slope that carried him to another victory.
He was famous for saying of Nicklaus: “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.”
More telling was his interview with Golf Digest in 2008, when Weiskopf said: “Going head to head with Jack Nicklaus in a major was like trying to drain the Pacific with a teacup. You stand on the first tee knowing that your best golf shot might not be good enough. “
Weiskopf was pretty good in so many areas, and yet he often said he didn’t make the most of his talent. He attributed much of this to drinking, which he once said ruined his golf career. He gave up alcohol in 2007 and considered it one of his great victories.
He also said that he was never passionate enough about golf. His love was outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. Weiskopf once skipped the 1977 Ryder Cup so he could go sheep hunting.
His free spirit and unfiltered thoughts were a big part of his personality. His temper led to nicknames like the “Towering Inferno” and “Terrible Tom”. So much of it was traced to his high standards when it came to golf.
“I couldn’t accept failure when it was my fault,” he said after winning the 2005 US Senior Open at Congress. “It just used to tear me apart.”
Weiskopf’s last PGA Tour victory was the 1982 Western Open. His last full year on the PGA Tour was a year later. He played on the PGA Champions Tour, and perhaps it was only fitting that his only major win was the Senior Open by 4 shots over Nicklaus.
Weiskopf later worked in television at both CBS and ABC/ESPN.
He partnered with golf course architect Jay Moorish and their first collaboration was Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dozens more golf courses followed, including Loch Lomond in Scotland and a revamp of the North Course at Torrey Pines.
Standard of his design is the drivable par 4. The inspiration came from playing the Old Course at St. Andrews, where he could move four of the par 4s, depending on the wind.
“I should have done more,” Weiskopf once told Golf Digest about his career. “But I don’t dwell on it anymore. I will say this though: If it weren’t for the fact that I love what I’m doing now so much. [golf course design]I would probably be a very unhappy person.”