Facebook Twitter

Irwin runs away with Open

Irwin’s 267 is lowest in Senior Open history

SHARE Irwin runs away with Open

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Hale Irwin overcame a two-stroke deficit with a 6-under-par 65 to win his second U.S. Senior Open in three years. He finished with a 17-under 267 Sunday, the lowest total in tournament history, surpassing Gary Player's 270 in 1987.

Bruce Fleisher, who had led after the first three rounds, shot a 70 and finished at 270. He was seeking his 11th senior victory in two years.

"Statements are made and statements are forgotten," Irwin said when asked if he was trying to prove that he was the best player among the seniors.

"He's the better player this week," Fleisher said with a smirk.

The victory at Saucon Valley Country Club was worth $400,000 for Irwin.

It was the third victory of the season and 28th as a senior for Irwin, a three-time U.S. Open champion. He moved within one victory of Lee Trevino for most wins on the Senior PGA Tour and now has 56 career victories worldwide.

"I did what I wanted to do early," said Irwin, who birdied three straight on the front nine for a four-stroke turnaround. "I let Bruce know I'm there, and put pressure on him."

Irwin shot a third-round best 65 to get within two strokes of the lead. He wiped out the two-stroke deficit on No. 1, took a one-stroke lead on No. 4 and made it two strokes on No. 5.

Fleisher got in trouble on No. 1 when he sliced a drive into the right fairway bunker. He missed a 6-foot par putt, and bogeyed the hole to share the lead as Irwin birdied with a 5-footer.

"Hale was really on," Fleisher said. "I didn't get off to a good start and he got the momentum. I blipped the first hole. I gambled and lost."

Irwin said he was surprised with Fleisher's approach on No. 1.

"I really couldn't believe he played it," Irwin said. "My camp was encouraging it, saying 'Go for it. Go for it."'

Tom Kite shot a 69 to finish third with a 12-under 272. Raymond Floyd's 67 put him fourth at 274. Hubert Green was next at 276 and was followed by Dave Stockton and Jim Thorpe at 277.

"Hale's a good player and tough to beat," Kite said. "It would've been interesting to see if one of us could've put some pressure on him."

Irwin took the lead for good when he made a 4-foot putt for birdie on No. 4 while Fleisher pushed a 4-footer for birdie to the right.

A nice approach on the 5th set up a 3-foot birdie for Irwin as he took a two-stroke lead.

"The momentum created yesterday carried to today," Irwin said. "What I wanted to accomplish, I got done with a good start."

Fleisher, showing signs of frustration for the first time all week, disgustedly pointed to the green when he barely missed a birdie putt on No. 5.

He lifted his spirits with a nice approach on No. 6 that nearly kissed Irwin's ball as both players made nearly identical 3-foot putts.

Fleisher cut the deficit to one stroke with a birdie on No. 8, but Irwin regained a two-stroke lead with a birdie on No. 12.

"I never put the ball in position where I can be aggressive," Fleisher said. "I wasn't really focused and that happens from time to time."

A journeyman who won just once in 27 years on the regular tour, Fleisher was seeking to become the third golfer to win the U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur titles. Fleisher, who won the U.S. Amateur in 1968, would have joined Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in that elite group.

"There is nothing comparable to experience," Irwin said. "For Bruce, each time out, it's more experience. You can't measure experience. I think Bruce learned a lot today."