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OPEN CHAMP IRWIN WINS CLASSIC FOR 2ND VICTORY IN WEEK

Hale Irwin was a day late getting to the suburbs north of New York City.

He was emotionally drained and mentally weary from a 19-hole playoff victory in the U.S. Open at Medinah, near Chicago.He said he had no great expectations for the Buick Classic. But he insisted his appearance at the Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y., was more than the fulfilling of a commitment.

"I'm not here just to put in my obligatory two days and go home," he said.

The 45-year-old veteran more than proved his point with a bogey-free closing round of 66 on Sunday that brought him a second title in a six-day period.

"I'm excited about the double," said Irwin, who became the first Open title-holder since Billy Casper in 1966 to win the tournament immediately following the American national championship.

The winning streak will end at two, however.

"I'm sorry there can't even be an effort to try for a triple," Irwin said. Pleading exhaustion, he's heading home and isn't even sure when or where his next tournament appearance will be.

"A lot of things are up in the air," he said. "It's been a very, very hectic time, a very, very tense time."

It's also been a very, very rewarding time. In a monetary sense, he won $400,000 in the two tournaments, more than he collected in any of his previous 22 full seasons on the PGA Tour.

But much more than the money is involved, he said.

"I showed there's still some life left, some fun left. These are the days you look forward to," he said.

"There aren't many of them. And, at this stage of my career, I probably appreciate these two more than any others," said Irwin, who had gone through a five-year non-winning string before breaking through in the U.S. Open.

"I'm proud of myself in the way I reacted after such an emotional week at the Open," he said.

And he earned renewed respect from his fellow pros.

"It's hard to follow up any win," said Paul Azinger, who chased Irwin to the Buick Classic title and fell short by two strokes. "I can't imagine what it takes to follow up an Open victory."

Irwin gained his 19th career triumph on a 269 total, 15 under par on the Westchester Country Club course.

Starting the final round in a tie for the lead, he played the front side in four under par, took a four-shot lead at the turn and held off any would-be challengers with a decisive string of eight consecutive pars, capped by an 18th-hole birdie that again sent him to the gallery ropes to slap high-fives with spectators.

Rookie Kirk Triplett came on with a 66 and was third at 272. He was followed by Ken Green at 67-273.

Blaine McCallister, who shared the third-round lead with Irwin, drifted back with a 71 and tied at 274 with Jim Gallagher, who shot 67.

***

At Rochester, N.Y., Patty Sheehan made six birdies on the back nine in a round of 67 to come from behind and win the LPGA Rochester International for the second year in a row with a record 17-under-par 271 total.

Sheehan overtook Amy Alcott, who led by three shots at the turn, with a 5-under 32 on the second nine. Alcott finished at 275, while three-time Rochester champion Nancy Lopez was another stroke back in third.

***

At Concord, Mass., Bob Charles shot a 5-under-par 67 and held off a charging Lee Trevino to successfully defend his title the $350,000 Digital Senior Golf Classic.

Charles' 13-under-par total of 203 after three trips around the Nashawtuc Country Club course was three short of his mark in winning last year when he snapped Chi Chi Rodriguez's three-year run on the tournament.

It was Charles' first victory of the year and 14th of his career on the Senior Tour. He earned $52,500 to push his seasonal earnings to $210,789.