Hale Irwin opened the U.S. Senior Open with his worst round of the year. By the time the tournament ended Sunday, that 77 hadn't kept him from winning it.
Irwin made birdie putts on the 16th and 18th holes to complete a round of 2-under-par 69 Sunday, giving him a one-shot victory over Vicente Fernandez of Argentina, who finished with a 68.Raymond Floyd, who led following each of the first three rounds, was alone in third place at 287 after closing with a 74.
"Of all the tournaments on the Senior Tour, this is the one I wanted the most," said Irwin, whose birdie putts were from about 20 feet on the par-3 16th hole and 15 feet on the par-4 18th.
He also just missed a 20-footer for birdie on No. 17, settling instead for a par.
"I'll not want to forget this for a long time," Irwin said. "I tasted victory here in 1976 (in the Los Angeles Open), this is even better. I'm real proud of it, this is a highlight of my career."
Irwin, who has dominated the Senior Tour since 1996, became the seventh player ever to win the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open tournaments, and set a Senior Tour record for poorest first round by a winner.
Irwin's 72-hole total of 285 on rounds of 77-68-71-69 was 1-over-par on the rugged 6,906-yard, par-71 Riviera Country Club.
It didn't seem Irwin would be a factor after his horrendous first round - two shots higher than his previous worst round of the year.
But he got back into contention with a 68 on Friday, and chipped in from off the green on the 18th hole Saturday, putting him into position to win for the fifth time this year.
"The only thing I really felt was I wasn't out of it," he said about his first-round score. "The 77 certainly put a big bump in the road."
But not too big for Irwin, who earned $267,500 from a purse of $1.5 million to boost his 1998 earnings to $2,002,750. He has finished no worse than a tie for fifth in 14 senior tournaments this year.
Irwin, 53, led all seniors in earnings two years ago at $1,615,769, and was first again last year at $2,343,364 - a record for seniors and more than anyone on the PGA or LPGA tours.
Fernandez, 52, was trying to win his first major of any kind and was the leader in the clubhouse before Irwin's two late birdies.
Fernandez, who entered the Senior Open ranked ninth on the earnings list, finished at 73-71-74-68-286, and earned $157,500 to increase his 1998 bankroll to $730,797.
Floyd, 55, took a three-shot lead over Irwin into the final round, but it disintegrated over the first seven holes.
Floyd and Irwin, playing in the final twosome, both birdied the first hole, but Floyd bogeyed the third and fifth holes, and Irwin birdied the seventh to draw even.
Both players bogeyed the 10th hole, and suddenly, Fernandez, playing four groups ahead of Floyd and Irwin, was just one shot behind.
Fernandez erased the deficit by sinking a 10-foot putt for birdie on the 16th hole, and became the undisputed leader when Irwin and Floyd both bogeyed No. 13.
A few minutes later, Fernandez maintained his advantage by knocking in a 15-foot putt on the 17th hole to save par, and then parred No. 18.
Fernandez said he was behind the television tower near the 18th green and didn't see Irwin's winning putt.
"I had the feeling he was going to hole it," Fernandez said.
Floyd earned $101,537 for his third-place finish.
Brian Barnes, who finished with a 69, and Isao Aoki, who closed with a 72, tied for fourth place at 288.
Dave Stockton was next at 289 after carding a 73, and Gil Morgan, Dan Wood, Jose Maria Canizares, Ed Dougherty and Hugh Baiocchi all finished at 290.
Barnes could have had an even better score. He incurred a two-stroke penalty on the 11th green for playing his ball from the wrong place.
Nicklaus finished at 292 - eight-over-par.
CVS Charity Classic
SUTTON, Mass. - Steve Pate overcame his own wild shots on the 18th hole of the CVS Charity Classic Sunday to win his first tournament since a car crash knocked him off the PGA Tour for nearly all of 1996.
Pate, once known for his hot temper, controlled it well after he hooked his first three shots into the rough on the final hole, putting his two-stroke lead in jeopardy. He recovered by calmly knocking his fourth shot on the green, then needed just two putts on the 583-yard final hole.
Willie Wood, playing in the last twosome in the last PGA event at Pleasant Valley, could have caught up with an eagle on the 18th, but finished with a par.
Pate's bogey on the 18th gave him a one-stroke win, his first victory since 1992, over Scott Hoch and Bradley Hughes. Pate shot 4-under-par 67 for a 15-under 269 and the top prize of $270,000. Hoch shot 65 and Hughes 66 on the 7,110-yard Pleasant Valley layout.
Wood , Nolan Henke and Mike Heinen were another stroke back at 271.
The first PGA tournament at the course was in 1965, but this year's title sponsor, CVS, wouldn't accept unfavorable dates offered by the PGA for next year. After a two-year break, the tour has been held annually at Pleasant Valley. Pate is the 32nd different winner in 32 years.
Wood shared the third-round lead with Dave Stockton Jr., whose 71 Sunday left him at 272.
Until the 18th, Pate, 37, had rallied on the back nine with four birdies and four pars. He had come a long way since an accident put his career on hold.
He was driving home from the Phoenix Open in January 1996 when, he said, "I drove my car into a truck at 75 mph. I was going 25."
He broke a facial bone but, more damaging for a golfer, he broke his right hand and wrist. "Other than that," he said, "I did all right."
Except for his only bogey on the 18th, he did just fine on Sunday.
Giant Eagle LPGA
HOWLAND, Ohio - Se Ri Pak birdied the final hole and then watched as Dottie Pepper missed a 4-footer for birdie, giving the rookie sensation a one-shot victory Sunday in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic.
The victory was the 20-year-old Korean's fourth of the season and deprived Pepper of her first win since 1996.
Pepper, seeking her 15th career victory and first in 45 tournaments, rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to catch Pak at 14-under.
On No. 18, Pak hit a fairway wood for her second shot on the 451-yard, par-5 hole that hit on the front edge of the green and rolled 15 feet short and right of the cup.
Pepper, playing one group behind Pak, was watching from the fairway as Pak just missed the eagle putt but tapped in for birdie to cap a 5-under-par 67 and finish at 15-under 201.
Pepper said she was not watching the leaderboard, focusing on her own play, and wasn't aware of the situation on the final green.
Pepper made a charge at what could have been the winning eagle putt, hitting it four feet past the hole. A television camera caught Pak yawning as she watched the drama.
Not until she saw her caddie, John Killeen, take off his caddie bib did she realize she had lost.
"I asked John why he was taking his bib off. I said, `We're going back to the tee, aren't we,' " she said as her eyes began to fill with tears. "He said no."