CLEVELAND -- It takes more than a champion to beat the very best and there were none quite that good at Canterbury Sunday when Jack Nicklaus wrote himself into golfing history by winning the national championship.
When the 33-year-old Nicklaus dropped his final putt for a last-round 69 and a 72-hole total of 277, seven under par, he won his third PGA title and his 14th major championship, one more than the legendary Bobby Jones.
Australia's Bruce Crampton, the tour's leading money winner who finished second to Nicklaus for the third time in a major event, put it perfectly when he said: "It took the best in the world to beat me. I don't say this egotistically, but you don't beat the best when he does not make a mistake."
And that was Nicklaus through four rounds of golf played in stifling heat and on a demanding course. He made only five bogeys.
Listen to Tom Weiskopf, who is no slouch himself, having won five of his last 10 tournaments, and tied for sixth here:
"You have a great champion. Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer who ever played the game."
Crampton was in contention until he bogeyed the 13th to fall three shots back, lost further ground on 16 and 17, but birdied the 18th for a 70 and 281 to be alone in second place.
Lanny Wadkins, 69; J.C. Snead, 71, and Mason Rudolph, 73, finished in a three-way tie at 282.
Veteran Mason Rudolph threw the book at Nicklaus only to have it come back at him and he double-bogeyed the final hole to lose $13,791.67.
Don Iverson, within three strokes of the lead, finished bogey-double bogey-par and lost a lot of change; Crampton bogeyed three of the last six holes before he nailed down second place with a birdie on the 18; Jim Colbert choked on the last four, while Weiskopf, who made only six pars in a strange round, finished bogey-bogey.
Iverson's fall from grace probably was the most tragic. He was playing in his first major event and has won only small change compared with the great names of the game. His name had been on the leader board for the four days and 69 holes but then the pressure got to him. Those three- finishing holes probably cost him in the region of $18,000.
Iverson earned $7,311.67.
But Iverson at least had the honor of finishing ahead of U.S. Open champion Johnny Miller, 69-217; Lee Trevino, a member of the millionaire club, 67-286, and defending champion Gary Player, 78-216. Arnold Palmer didn't even make the 36-hole cut.
Apart from his three PGA titles, Nicklaus has taken the U.S. Open three times; won four Masters titles, and two British Opens. He also won two U.S. Amateur titles.
The $45,000 Nicklaus earned brought his 1973 winnings to $245,424, second only to Crampton, and his career figure to $1,949,129.
Crampton's second-place finish was worth $25,700, while Wadkins, J . C Snead and Rudolph picked up $11,908.
Nicklaus' victory qualifies him to in the World Series of Golf for the time in its 12-year history. He will be joined in the field by Tommy Aaron, the Masters champion; U.S. Open champion Johnny Miller and British Open winner Tom Weiskopf.
The 36-hole competition is scheduled for Sept. 8-9 at Firestone Country in nearby Akron, Ohio. First place is worth $50,000; second $15,000; third $7,500 and fourth $5,000.