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On This Date in Sports June 21, 1992: Kite in the Wind

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Tom Kite flies high at Pebble Beach as he wins the only major championship of his career, taking the 92nd U.S. Open Championship. The 42-year old Kite had previously had 19 top ten finishes in majors but always had fallen short. Tom Kite wins, with a one over 73 on the final day to finish at three under par for the tournament, beating Jeff Sluman by two strokes.

Tom Kite was born in McKinney, Texas on December 9, 1949. After attending the University of Texas, he turned professional in 1972. A top-rated golfer, Kite won 19 times on the PGA Tour. However, championships in the four majors have alluded. Often on the leaderboard, Kite finished in the top-ten at majors 19 times, without a win as he prepared to play in the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Kite had always played well at the golf course on the Pacific Ocean in Northern California, winning the Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble in 1983.

Tom Kite had a solid opening round at the 1992 U.S. Open shooting a one-under-par 71. However, he was outshined by Gil Morgan who was at six-under par, with a 66. Curtis Strange also had a strong opening round with a 67. Morgan looked to be on his way to a big weekend, after a 69 in the second round, dropping to -9. Andy Dillard meanwhile was in second place at -6. Kite meanwhile was eight strokes off the lead at -1, after a par-72 on Friday.

Moving day was bad for Gil Morgan as he was five over on Saturday, shooting a 77. Tom Kite, who was eight strokes off the lead at the midway point, made up seven strokes shooting a two-under-par 70. This put Kite in a three-way tie for second place with Mark Brooks and Ian Woosnam who each shot a 69 on Saturday. Andy Dillard meanwhile plunged off the leaderboard with a 79.

Windy conditions and quick greens made playing the final round difficult, creating a scramble of the entire tournament. Gil Morgan who began the tournament with a 66 and sat at 69 after two rounds had a hellish final round after starting the final round with a one-stroke lead at -4. Morgan who had double boggie on the fourth and sixth hole, finished with an 83, finishing the tournament at five over par. The wind was a breeze for Kite, as he sat one stroke back when the day began and quickly grabbed the lead as Morgan faltered. Tom Kite had his issues, a double bogey on the fourth and a bogey on the ninth but was one of just three golfers under par at the turn as his iron pitch on the seventh was a sign early it was his day. As the conditions played havoc with everyone else Kite found his groove, with birdies on the 12th and 14th to build a five-stroke lead at -5 on the 15th hole. While back-to-back bogies on 16 and 17 held down his final score, Tom Kite would not be denied shooting a par -72 to beat Jeff Sluman by two strokes. Gil Morgan who finshed 13th, never would win a major title.