SNOQUALMIE, Wash. (AP) — The thoughts started sneaking into Tom Kite’s head. Maybe after nine Champions Tour titles, two years without a victory and the constant fight with his streaky putter, Kite’s winning ways were finished.
Playing flawlessly over the final seven holes Sunday, Kite rallied from a two-shot deficit with three birdies in four holes, surging past Scott Simpson to win his second Boeing Classic championship and 10th career Champions Tour title.
Kite finished two strokes better than Simpson at 14-under after shooting a 6-under 66, capped by a birdie on the 18th hole that clinched his first title since winning at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge on this weekend two years ago.
“At some point in time in all our careers, we’re going to win our last golf tournament and when you win it you obviously don’t think that’s going to be your last one,” Kite said. “When I won this tournament in ’06 I thought I was just going to light it up. After two years you start to wonder, ‘Am I going to win one?”‘
Two years ago Kite needed a playoff to dispatch of Keith Fergus. He avoided the playoff this time by sinking three birdies inside 10 feet on the back nine while Simpson scrambled just to make pars.
Yep, Texas got the best of USC yet again.
“I tackled Tom about as well as (USC) tackled Vince Young,” cracked Simpson, a USC grad.
There was little Simpson could do in stopping Kite’s charge, which actually began with a clutch bogey putt on 11. Instead of finding himself three back of Simpson, Kite stayed two behind by dropping an 8 1/2-footer that became the catalyst for his run.
Kite birdied No. 12, then avoided the temptation to go for the green on the canyon-crossing 14th, instead playing about 50 yards short of the green and making a 9-footer to draw even with Simpson.
Kite took the lead on 15, playing the long par-5 perfectly and dropping a 7-foot putt to reach 13-under. Two pars preceded his winning birdie on 18.
Even though he wasn’t winning, Kite found himself in contention a few times this year. He lost in a playoff at The ACE Group Classic in Florida and fell short playing in the final group on Sunday at the Bank of America Championship in June.
“You try to eliminate those thought, because those thoughts are counterproductive to winning a golf tournament,” Kite said. “So you battle through those and keep pushing through those.”
Simpson started the day with a two-stroke lead and birdied Nos. 1 and 7 before dropping a shot at the 8th with his first bogey in 44 holes dating to last week’s JELD-WEN Tradition. Simpson was then stuck at 12-under, failing to give himself any reasonable birdie chances on the back nine.
His hopes ended when a 2-foot par putt horseshoed around the hole on the 16th, putting him two behind Kite with two holes to play.
“It’s fun to be in the hunt, but it’s disappointing not to win,” said Simpson, who is in a two-year drought of his own.
John Cook was tied for second when he made the turn at 10-under, but his irons failed him on the back nine. He saved par after poor approaches on Nos. 10 and 11, but couldn’t do the same from a bunker on 12, falling back to 9-under.
Cook made a birdie on the 16th, and added another when he put his tee shot within 5 feet on the 185-yard par-3 17th. By then, Kite had birdied the 15th to take command.
The only player to make a charge from the back of the field was defending champion Denis Watson, who started the day at 3-under, then eagled the par-5 first when he holed out from about 65 yards. He added birdies at Nos. 4, 5 and 6, and his birdie on the long par-4 11th got him to 9-under.
Then Watson started missing chances. His 13-footer slid past the hole at 14, and he left a 10-footer on the lip at No. 15. Watson added one more birdie coming in, but his chances ended with a bogey on the par-5 18th. He finished at 9-under and tied for fifth, his best finish since tying for fifth at the Regions Charity Classic in May.
“I was feeling like if I shot 10-under today, I could win the golf tournament,” Watson said. “If I get to 13 (under), that is tough at the end of the day.”
But even 13-under wouldn’t have beaten Kite on this day.
“This feels really, really good,” Kite said.