At New Orleans, Tim Simpson was giving his golf career one last chance, and it paid off.

Simpson shot a final-round 69 Sunday for a 274 total and his first tournament victory since 1985 in the $750,000 USF&G Classic. His 2-stroke margin over Greg Norman and Hal Sutton was worth $135,000.Before this season started, Simpson said he wrote to his wife and his parents, telling them he wanted to play his way back into the Masters.

"I told them I was going to play very heavy up until the Masters, because I'm not in the Masters and I wanted to be," he said. "I also said - and I'm not usually much of a predictor - that I would win a tournamnet and be back in.

"I told my wife that if I couldn't win this year, I was coming home," he said.

Simpson said he is emotionally and physically drained by his heavy schedule, so he's skipping this week's event at Houston to rest up for the Masters.

It was only the second professional victory for Simpson in a career that began in 1977. He won the Southern Open in 1985.

Simpson went into the day a stroke behind Norman, who shot 72 on Sunday, while Sutton had a 70. Each earned $66,000 for second place.

Tom Kite failed in his bid for a third straight tournament victory, shooting a 73 on Sunday.

Kite, the season's leading money winner, won at Bay Hill and the Players Championship and was seeking to accomplish what was last done by Gary Player in 1978.

Kite was in good position on Friday, 5 under par and four strokes behind the leaders. A 74 on Saturday made his failure almost certain, and his 73 on Sunday sealed it.