Final-round runs have become almost second-nature for Jack Nicklaus, but this one seemed improbable even for him.
Nicklaus, who was 12 shots off the lead after Friday's second round, shot a 5-under-67 Sunday and successfully defended his title with a one-stroke victory at The Tradition over Jim Colbert, Phil Rodgers and Jim Dent."I didn't think I could make up that much ground," said Nicklaus, who had a 71 and 73 in the first two rounds. "I never had done that before in 30-something years of playing golf, so why think I could do it now?"
Nicklaus, in his season debut on the Senior PGA Tour, came from five shots back in the final round to finish with an 11-under 277 total and take the $120,000 top prize in the $800,000 tournament.
Now it's on to Augusta National for The Masters, a major tournament on the regular tour he has won six times, the last in 1986. He finished sixth last year and there is no golfer the rest of the field could fear more this week in the first of the grand slam tournaments.
"I hope I'll be sharper next week. I was only sharp for two days this week," he said. "I'll take a rest (Monday), then probably play a round Tuesday at Augusta. So I'm working in that direction - to get sharper for the Masters."
Nicklaus won The Tradition last year by four shots on the 6,864-yard Cochise Course at Desert Mountain that he designed.
"I have no complaints about the course. You just have to have a little bit of patience," Nicklaus said. "I feel good about the way I played. I made things happen down the stretch. I put together two good rounds and the guys in front of me helped me get back in it."
Rodgers and Colbert both started the final round tied for the lead at 11 under and with a four-stroke bulge over Dent and Ben Smith.
Nicklaus took over the lead on the 17th when both Rodgers and Colbert bogeyed to fall to nine under.
Nicklaus chipped within two feet on 18, then tapped in a birdie putt to go 11 under.
Colbert and Rodgers, playing in the group behind Nicklaus, both birdied the final hole to finish at 278 after rounds of 73. They won $58,000 as did Dent, who shot a 69 and overcame four bogeys on the front nine with seven birdies in the final eight holes.
Dale Douglass had five of his eight birdies on the back nine and posted the day's best round - a 66 - to finish at 281.
In Tucson, Ariz., hometown favorite Chris Johnson faltered down the stretch but held on to capture the LPGA's PING-Welch's Championship by four strokes over Kris Tschetter.
Tschetter carded an LPGA season-best six straight birdies on Nos. 13-18. Jan Stephenson , Betsy King and Kristi Albers tied for third at 278.
In The Woodlands, Texas, Bobby Wadkins, Mike Hulbert and Robert Wren combined for a 16-under-par 56 Sunday to capture the $100,000 18-hole team scramble that replaced the rained-out Independent Insurance Agent Open at The Woodlands Country Club.
The winning group started with an eagle on the par-5 first hole and finished with three pars and 14 birdies over the 7,045-yard Tournament Players Course.
Under rules of the best-ball scramble, each member of the team hit a tee shot and thereafter the team captain chose the best position of the three and all three players hit from that position.