1981: Hale Irwin wins the Buick Open after a four-man playoff finish

Buick Open

Hale Irwin let a Sunday lead slip but still triumphed in the playoff to win the Buick Open

By: Josh Morris – In 1981 Hale Irwin, a two time U.S. Open champion had his sights set on the Buick Open’s $63,000 first place check in the $350,000 purse.  Irwin played masterfully in the opening round navigating his way around the Warwick Hills Course in Grand Blanc, Michigan to -6 under par, 65.  During the second round Irwin would falter compared to his previous outing and settle for a 73 bringing him to -5 after 36 holes.  He caught fire once again during the third round as Hale carded a smooth 67 to sit -10 before the final round.

The golf gods decided to test Hale Irwin’s patience during that final round in which he once held a massive lead at -14, and let it slip all the way to a playoff with Bobby Clampett,  Peter Jacobsen, and Gil Morgan.  It looked though that Irwin was going to shut the door at the beginning of the round as he birdied the first three holes of the day before bogeying the 9th entering the turn.  After a birdie and a few pars on the back, Irwin lost it at the 13th hole.  He would bogey the 13th, 17th, and 18th holes after leading the field by multiple strokes and then falling into a playoff.  Irwin’s spirits were shattered and morale was low–Out of the four in the playoff, Irwin was the only player to play on the aggressive side during the par 5 16th.  It paid off as only one player had a chance, Bobby Clampett’s birdie bid lipped out of the cup cementing Hale Irwin’s 13th PGA Tour victory.

“My experience helped me, I think, but I can assure you I was only thinking about winning the Buick Classic….I can give you 63,000 reasons why I was thinking about this tournament.”

— Hale Irwin

Josh Morris

Josh Morris is the Editor of Golf History Today. A proud USGA Volunteer and golf enthusiast. In his free time he enjoys being a weekend caddie as well as playing as much as he can.

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