OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) — Final round co-leader Seve Ballesteros birdied 18 at Oakmont Country Club today for a 68 (-3) to claim the 83rd U.S. Open Championship replay with a three-shot victory over Calvin Peete.
Ballesteros managed to hold on as a five-shot lead with seven holes remaining dwindled to two with two holes left as Peete mounted a late charge with three straight birdies.
Good fortune earlier in the round with his short game, however, portended the Spaniard’s eventual triumph. He drained a 14-foot par putt on the third after hitting a tee shot into the famed church pew bunkers. After missing the green on seven, Ballesteros holed a 20-yard bunker shot for birdie. On 10, after hitting a recovery out of a ditch to 80 yards, his approach struck the flagstick and dropped for an improbable birdie — and the tournament’s defining moment.
Meanwhile, runner-up Peete struggled on the front nine, missing a pair of birdie putts from eight feet. A string of three bogies dropped him to +3, five shots back after 11 holes. Peete’s rally started on the par-3 13th by sinking a winding 23-foot putt. He would go on to birdie the next two and pull to within two after Ballesteros whiffed a tap-in for par on 16. Ballesteros made up for the mistake on 18, hitting a laser approach from 180 yards to within five feet for the winning putt.
Neither the defending champion, Tom Watson, who started the day tied for the lead with Ballesteros at -1, nor historical champion, Larry Nelson, one-shot behind at even par, were ever in contention. Watson briefly held the lead alone when Ballesteros bogeyed the second hole but gave it back on the third after overshooting the green and bogeying.
Trailing by three after bogeys on eight and nine, Watson appeared to be in a position to make up some ground on 10, waiting to attempt an eight-foot birdie putt while Ballesteros was hitting his third shot from 80 yards away. The subsequently holed sand wedge seemed to take the wind out of Watson, who missed the putt. It was a two-stroke swing that effectively ended his hopes for defending the title.
Watson finished with a 76 (+5) and dropped to fourth place. Nelson shot a four-over 39 on the front nine and finished with a 73 (+3) for third place. Final standings for the tournament:
Ballesteros 68 (-3) $72,000
Peete 70 (E) $43,200
Nelson 73 (+3) $27,200
Watson 76 (+5) $19,200