Hale Irwin could see other players' spirits deflate as hole by hole, putt by putt, he refused to relinquish his hold on the PGA Seniors Championship.
"It's delightful to see," Irwin said Sunday - only slightly tongue-in-cheek - after he captured his third straight Seniors title with a 2-under-par-70.Irwin's domination of the 6,722-yard Champion course at the PGA National Golf Club left little room for drama. He breezed into the history book as the first man since World War II to win the tournament three years in a row.
Since becoming eligible in 1996, Irwin is 35-under for his 12 rounds on the course, which played especially difficult this week with gusty, 30-mph winds.
Irwin began Sunday with a birdie, and added two more at holes 6 and 11 for a 275 total and an seven-stroke victory over Larry Nelson, who had a closing 72.
"It was like two different tournaments going on - it was seeing how well Hale would play and seeing who would finish second," said Nelson, who played with Irwin all four days.
Nelson and Gil Morgan provided the only true competition of the day: a footrace for the second-place - which was worth $60,000 more than third - that lasted until the final putt on No. 18.
Morgan had two birdies on the front, including a 30-foot putt on No. 8. But bogeys on holes 1, 10, 13 and 15 put kept him a stroke behind Nelson.
On No. 18, Morgan made his birdie putt, putting pressure on Nelson to make his own."On the last green, when you don't have a chance to win, all of a sudden
you start thinking about money," Nelson said.
Earlier in the day, Nelson was put in an interesting rules quandary: what to do about a turtle moving his ball in the No. 6 greenside bunker.
"I asked the rules officials there if it was OK if I tapped him," Nelson said. "That was the biggest head I've ever seen on a turtle."
A gentle prod with his wedge set the turtle on his way. Nelson then shot the ball to the fringe and made par.
Fan favorite Jack Nicklaus, a co-leader with Irwin after an opening round of 68, shot 72 Sunday to finish 1-over.
Dave Stockton, who had 73s in each of the first three rounds, finished tied for fifth with Dale Douglass - 12 strokes behind Irwin - after shooting a 68. It was the low round of the day.
Love III wins 4th MCI Classic
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Davis Love III turned an expected Sunday duel with Phil Mickelson into a final-round runaway to win his fourth MCI Classic championship by a record margin.
Love's on-target irons and precise putting got rid of Mickelson on the front nine and almost matched the scoring record on the back. He shot a 65 for an 18-under 266, one off Loren Roberts' 1996 record, and won by seven strokes, surpassing Nick Price's record six-shot victory of a year ago.
"A couple of my friends said, `Man, you always play well here.' I don't always play well here, but I've had five or six good weeks on a real tough golf course," said Love, who won $342,000.
It would take an encyclopedia to list Love's accolades at Harbour Town Golf Links, where he first showed up as a 13-year-old junior prodigy.
He's the event's career money leader with $941,553; he's the tournament's youngest champion when he won at 23 years old in 1987; he's among the two repeat winners here with titles in 1991 and 1992; and he's the only one with four plaid MCI champions coats.
"I've had some up and down rounds this year," Love said of his first win since the Buick Challenge in October. "But this is a big boost to me, a big boost to my year."
For Mickelson, it was his second straight Sunday collapse. He was two shots behind Fred Couples in the Masters through 54 holes and shot a closing 74.
Here, Mickelson trailed by two at the start, and matched Love's second-hole birdie, but never got that close again as he faded to a 73.
A lot was expected of the Love-Mickelson pairing. The two played a memorable match in the American finals of the Andersen Consulting World Championships nearly a year ago, with Love landing a tee shot within two feet of the flag to win on the second playoff hole.
Love made sure that didn't happen here. When Mickelson's approach on No. 3 came within 10 feet, Love plopped his to six inches. After Mickelson chipped to 6 feet to set up birdie on the par-5 fifth hole, Love got his to 3 feet.
At No. 8, Love slipped his second shot within a foot for a tap-in birdie. A hole later, Mickelson made the last of three straight bogeys and Love was ahead by seven shots.
Webb repeats at Myrtle Beach
MURRELLS INLET, S.C. - Karrie Webb, born in Australia and soon to be a Florida resident, also feels right at home along the Grand Strand.
The 23-year-old golfer made the Myrtle Beach Classic her own for the second consecutive year, pulling away down the stretch for a three-shot victory over Meg Mallon that only enhanced her fondness for the event.
"Before I even came here this week, I had good memories about the course and really looked forward to it," said Webb, who became the LPGA Tour's first repeat champion this season.
Webb withstood Mallon's early challenge and intermittent showers Sunday to shoot a 5-under-par 67, finishing with a four-day total of 19-under 269. That was seven strokes better than last year, when a final-round 66 brought her from two shots off the pace to win the inaugural Myrtle Beach event.
"We all have our share of courses we feel comfortable on and Karrie has one right here," Mallon said.
The Wachesaw East Golf Club's tight fairways and abundant use of marshy vegetation often take the driver out of golfers' hands and place a premium on precision shotmaking.
"I really like this golf course," Webb said. "I like the challenge of hitting into some of these tight pins. It really sets up well for me."
Webb had her way all week on a layout softened by two days of thunderstorms, failing to make par or better just three times in 72 holes. One of those was an inexplicable duffer's slice into the woods Saturday that resulted in a double-bogey and only kept her from running away with the tournament even sooner.
There would be no such mistake on Sunday. She recorded six birdies and one bogey, twice spinning her approach shot within 3 feet of the pin for tap-in birdies. And when she returned to No. 16, the site of Saturday's wayward shot, she holed a 10-foot putt for her final birdie and a five-shot lead.
"I hit a 3-wood there every other day (except Saturday), so I just pulled out the 3-wood and hit it real well," said Webb, who is using some of her $2.2 million in career earnings to build a house in Boynton Beach, Fla.
The triumph was Webb's second this year, having already won the Australian Ladies' Masters in March. It also marked the second time in Webb's three-year career that she successfully defended a championship. She won back-to-back SAFECO Classic titles in 1996 and '97.
Mallon shot a 69 on Sunday to finish at 16-under 272, and Dottie Pepper was another stroke back after tying for the day's best round with a 64.
Webb began the day with a one-shot lead over Mallon, then fell behind when Mallon birdied the first three holes. A birdie of her own at No. 3 kept Webb within a stroke, and Mallon's bogey at No. 5 drew them even.
The Aussie took control over the next two holes. First she hit a 9-iron approach within 3 feet for birdie at No. 6, then launched a wedge shot at No. 7 that hit just right of the pin, bounced about 6 feet and spun back within 18 inches.
"That gave me a bit of momentum," Webb said. "I had to be swinging it good to hit it that close. I felt really, really good at that point."
A trio of three-putt holes, the last at No. 15, kept Mallon from applying any serious pressure after her opening threat. Still, it was her second runner-up finish this year after winning just twice in the past four seasons.