For the first time in Paul Azinger's career, there's no question about whether he will return to Pebble Beach.
In fact, he'll be back twice next year: once as the defending title-holder in the National Pro-Am and again in the U.S. Open."I can hardly wait for the '92 Open at Pebble," Azinger said Sunday after his four-stroke triumph in the National Pro-Am, the tournament that for so many years was called "the Crosby Clambake."
The victory came as something of a surprise to Azinger; a surprise on two counts.
First, he said, he wasn't playing very well coming in.
"You don't know how much pressure I put on myself the last few weeks. I was playing poorly, and I usually get off to a good start" at the first of the year, he said.
And, secondly, there was his track record at this event. He had never before even qualified for the final day's play.
"If I had to list the tournaments I expected to win, this would be dead last," said the lanky player called "Zinger" by his fellow pros. "I love the golf course, but when I got on the greens, I was just totally confused.
"Every year when I'd leave here, I'd swear I'd never come back. But in about six months, I'd change my mind."
Azinger, however, now has learned to factor in the pull of the ocean on the putts at Pebble Beach, as he demonstrated in a final round 67 over the links that stretch along the cliffs above Carmel Bay.
He made a 45-50 foot putt for birdie on the fourth hole and twice made par-saving putts of about 15 feet as he pulled away from any would-be challengers.
His little stretch of poor play was solved, he said, by a tip from Jim Flick early last week in Phoenix: "A little change in my backstroke," he said.
"He's got me back in the position I've been in when I'm playing my best," said Azinger, who now leads the PGA Tour with victories in five consecutive seasons.
Azinger, whose last previous victory came in the 1990 Tournament of Champions, broke his 13-month non-winning string with a 274 total, 14 under par.
Brian Claar and Corey Pavin tied for second at 278, four strokes back. Pavin had a no-bogey 67 and Claar birdied the last hole for a 68.
Third-round leader Rocco Mediate, Davis Love III and Mike Smith were another shot behind at 279.
At Key Biscayne, Fla., Gary Player says jitters are a common problem on the Senior Tour, and he overcame a bad case to win the Royal Caribbean Classic.
"It gets worse as you get older," Player said. "Why do you think Arnold Palmer doesn't win as much as he used to? His nerves aren't as good. ...
"If you could have good nerves at the age of 70, you'd still be able to win major championships."
Player, 55, didn't look shaky as he shot a 3-under-par 68 Sunday to beat three other players by 2 shots - the same margin he took into the final round. His 54-hole total of 13-under 200 was a tournament record.
"I was feeling the pressure quite a bit, I must say," Player said. "It's natural. At least I admit it. A lot of people get very, very nervous and don't admit it.
"I played with Jack Nicklaus when he beat me in the Skins (a week earlier). I looked at his hands - they were shaking. Of course we were playing for $285,000 on one hole."
Player pocketed $67,500 for his 16th Senior Tour title, which was in doubt until he got up and down in 2 from a bunker to par the final hole.
At Lake Worth, Fla., Meg Mallon held onto her two-stroke lead on Sunday when heavy rains halted play during the fourth round of the $400,000 LPGA Classic, pushing the final round back to Monday.
Mallon, seeking her first tour victory, started the round at 205, two strokes ahead of Betsy King and three in front of a group that included 1989 winner Dottie Mochrie and Hiromi Kobayashi of Japan, last season's rookie of the year.
Tied three strokes back were Amy Alcott, Laurel Kean and Donna Andrews.