Tom Kite claims THE PLAYERS Championship 1989 with a one-stroke victory

THE PLAYERS 1989: Tom Kite

Everything about the bottom line to THE PLAYERS Championship 1989 had a consistency to it that made sense. The deepest and toughest field of the year was won by the season’s best player, Tom Kite, leading money-winner ($1.395 million) and Player of the Year.

Nothing unusual there.

But what might have caught some by surprise was how the 39-year-old Kite finished at 9-under 279 to win by one over Chip Beck and hold off a list of challengers that included Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples, Greg Norman and Bruce Lietzke — by going wildly bold when it appeared that safe and conservative would have done it.

In possession of a two-stroke lead, Kite hit a 4-wood from 210 yards up and just off the green at the watery par-5 16th at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

“That’s as aggressive a shot as you can hit,” said Lietzke, Kite’s playing competitor, and Norman conceded that he shook his head.

Kite felt that if people were surprised, then they clearly had a misconception about the guy who was then the second highest-ranked American in the Official World Golf Ranking. Yes, he was small in stature and relied upon accuracy and not power, but that didn’t mean Kite wasn’t a tenacious competitor who could assert himself when needed.

“I had a golf tournament to win,” he said, when asked why he went for the green with a 4-wood.

And win, he did, the 12th of his career, though this one had a brighter shine to it, coming against the best field in golf at the Stadium Course.

“I had a golf tournament to win.” - Tom Kite