Tom Weiskopf’s golf prowess has gone beyond his 16 PGA Tour wins and his only major at Troon at the British Open. He was always candid, often open and unerringly accurate in the TV booth. He found even greater success designing golf courses.
Weiskopf died Saturday at his home in Big Sky, Montana, at the age of 79, his wife said. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2020.
Laurie Weiskopf said Tom worked last week at The Club at Spanish Peaks and attended a legacy luncheon at the club where he designed “The Legacy: Tom’s Ten,” a collection of his 10 favorite par-3s.
“He worked all the way through. It was amazing,” she said. “He had a big life.”
The son of an Ohio railroad worker, Weiskopf once said he fell in love with the game before he even started playing. His father took him to the 1957 US Open in Inverness and he was mesmerized watching Sam Snead make such clean contact.
“You had dinner with Tom and loved every minute of it,” Andy North said on Sunday. “The sad thing that gets lost is how good he was. Every time he hit a shot, it was beautiful.”
Clean contact was his hallmark at Ohio State and then his touring career. At 6-foot-3 — tall for golf in that era — Weiskopf had a swing that was powerful and rhythmic, natural and athletic. His best year was in 1973, when he won seven times around the world, including the Boarding Jug and the World Series of Golf at Firestone before it became an official tour.
He was famous as much for the majors he didn’t win as for the competition he faced — especially Jack Nicklaus, the Ohioan star who preceded him by several years on tour and cast a huge shadow over Weiskopf throughout his career.
Weiskopf had four second-place finishes at the Masters, the most of any player without winning the green jacket. The most memorable was in 1975, when Weiskopf and Johnny Miller stood on the 16th tee as they watched Nicklaus make a 40-foot birdie putt that led 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 against Jack Nicklaus in a major was like trying to dry up the Pacific Ocean with a teacup. You stand on the first tee knowing that your best golf might not be good enough.”
Weiskopf was very good in so many areas and yet he often said that he did not make the most of his talent. He credits much of that to drinking, which he once said ruined his golf career. He gave up alcohol in 2000 and considers this one of his great victories.
Nicklaus once said of him, “Tom Weiskopf had as much talent as any player I’ve ever seen play on tour.”
He also said he was never keen enough on golf. His love was the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. Weiskopf once missed the Ryder Cup in 1977 so he could go sheep hunting.
His free spirit and unfiltered thoughts were a big part of his personality. His temperament led to nicknames such as “The Towering Inferno” and “Terrible Tom”. So much of this 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 1995 US Senior Open at Congress. “It was just tearing me apart.”
Weiskopf’s last PGA Tour win was the Western Open in 1982. His last full year on the PGA Tour was a year later. He played on the PGA Tour Champions, and it was perhaps fitting that his only major appearance at the Senior Open was four shots over Nicklaus.
His televised commentary on CBS at the Masters and on ABC/ESPN was all about candor.
He was working at the 1986 Masters when Nicklaus was cruising to victory at the age of 46. Nicklaus was on the 16th when CBS anchor Jim Nantz brought up Weiskopf and asked, “What’s going through Jack’s mind right now?”
“If I knew the way he thought, I would have won this championship,” Weiskopf replied with a laugh.
Weiskopf partnered with golf course architect Jay Moorish and their first collaboration was Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, which Golf Digest rated as the best new course of 1986. He designed 25 courses with Moorish and then worked with Phil Smith .
Among the 80 courses designed by Weiskopf were Loch Lomond in Scotland and the 2016 revamp of the North Course at Torrey Pines, which meet his standard – a challenge at the highest level, enjoyable for all.
A standard of his design is the drivable par 4. The inspiration came from playing the Old Course at St. Andrews, where he could drive four of the par 4, depending on the wind.
Weiskopf summed up his contributions to golf last summer to Golf Digest.
“Golf has always been such a big mental challenge for me, and there have been times when I wish I could handle that challenge a little better,” he said. “But I love the game. I love talking about her and thinking about her, and she’s endlessly fascinating to me.”