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An erratic Irwin pulls out a win at the end

By Associated Press
Published April 26, 2004

SAVANNAH, Ga. - Hale Irwin was rusty, and it showed.

Still recovering from a nagging back injury that kept him off the Champions Tour four weeks, Irwin blew a lead Sunday, then hung on to win the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, beating Gil Morgan and Gary Koch by a stroke. Irwin finished 11-under 205 after 71. Morgan, whose string of rounds at par or better this season was snapped at 23, bogeyed the final hole for 1-over 73. Koch parred the final five holes for 71.

"A classic finish it was not," Irwin said. "Although it did come down to the final hole. ... I didn't have any high expectations."

Don Pooley (70) and Craig Stadler (72) tied at 207. The tournament came down to the final hole with Irwin and Morgan tied at 11 under.

Morgan, seeking his second win of the season, hit his drive into a fairway bunker, 152 yards from the green. Morgan blasted out, but was about 75 yards shy of the green. His third shot from a slight downslope stopped about 20 feet from the cup and he needed two putts to get down, handing the title to Irwin, who parred the hole.

Irwin hit a nifty 6-iron to inside 2 feet for birdie at No.9, going to 13 under for a three-stroke lead over Dave Barr and four-shot edge over Morgan.

But a stiff wind bothered Irwin on the back nine. He swung his club in disgust after a poor 2-iron into No.12 landed in a greenside bunker. The ball was almost level with his knees and Irwin blasted the ball across the green. Two putts later, he was back to 12 under. Morgan, meanwhile, birdied the 14th to pull within one. Irwin's meltdown continued with another bogey at the par-4 16th.

Irwin became the ninth winner in nine Champions Tour events this season.

PGA TOUR: Vijay Singh chipped in for eagle just before play was suspended to move into a three-way tie for the lead at the rain-delayed Houston Open. He was tied with Clearwater's John Huston and Joe Ogilvie at 7 under. The tournament was interrupted by bad weather for the third straight day. PGA Tour officials hoped to complete all 72 holes today, when more favorable weather was forecast. Only 15 players completed the third round.

FUTURES TOUR: Smriti Mehra shot 69 in the rain-delayed Frye Classic to win by three in Wichita, Kan. Jimin Kang (66) was second at 207 and Hernando grad Kelly Lagedrost (75) tied for 29th at 221.

EUROPEAN PGA TOUR: Christian Cevaer had two eagle-2s in a round of 69 to win the Spanish Open in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, by one for his first tour victory. Cevaer, who played at Stanford and joined the tour in 1994, was 9-under 271. Peter Hedblom (70), Ricardo Gonzalez (71) and third-round leader David Park (72) tied for second.

[Last modified April 26, 2004, 01:05:23]

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