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The doctor is in (win column)

Gil Morgan, the noted optometrist on the Senior PGA Tour, has no problem seeing his way to victory in the ACE Group Classic

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001


NAPLES, Fla. -- Gil Morgan needs glasses to read his scorecard, but you don't hear him talk much about prescriptions anymore.

The Senior PGA Tour golfer, once known more for the profession he didn't practice than the one he did, added another tournament title to his resume Sunday.

Morgan clearly is a better player today than he was in his 23-year PGA Tour career.

He shot 6-under-par 66 at Pelican Marsh Golf Club to win the ACE Group Classic by two shots over Dana Quigley. It was the 19th victory of Morgan's senior career, putting him eighth on the all-time list.

"I think the major difference is the fact I'm putting at a higher level than I did on the regular tour," said Morgan, 54, who has a degree in optometry that he has never used. "I putt better today than I ever putted. I actually putted at a higher level my last year before coming to the senior tour but never played well enough to take advantage of it."

Morgan made six birdies and didn't have a bogey despite still chipping off the rust from a winter spent at home in Edmond, Okla. He took the lead with 67 Saturday and was only briefly tied by Quigley during the final round.

That came at the 16th hole, where Quigley's tap-in birdie putt pulled him into a tie. But Morgan responded by holing a 4-footer, then birdied the par-3 17th for a two-shot advantage.

Morgan completed the 54-hole event at 204, 12 under par, for his second victory in Naples. Three years ago he won the event when it was played down the road at Bay Colony. He earned $210,000 from the $1.4-million purse.

Stewart Ginn, with a closing 66, finished third at 209, followed by Tom Kite, who shot 68.

Only Quigley had a chance on the back nine to overtake Morgan.

"I feel more disappointed about this loss than all of my five seconds last year," said Quigley, who shot a final-round 67. "I don't know where that's coming from. Maybe I'm getting a little bit better and a little bit tougher.

"I played the round I envisioned starting out. I talked to (sports psychologist) Bob Rotella on the practice tee (by phone). He told me my mind was going to be wandering all over the place and not to try and play Gil, just to play golf. ... To come up short, I don't know what to say about it."

Quigley, 53, who has four senior victories and will play in his 119th consecutive senior event at this week's Verizon Classic at TPC of Tampa Bay, settled for $123,200.

Morgan is proving to be a solid front-runner. He has had four leads heading into the final round of a tournament the past two years and won all four.

The winner of seven tournaments and $5.2-million in his regular tour career, Morgan never enjoyed the kind of success he is having now.

"Now I'm 20 yards longer than I was on the regular tour," Morgan said. "That, coupled with probably less players in the field. I play as well tee to green as I used to, but with the courses being a little bit shorter and the rough not so deep, it just gives me more chances to have opportunities for birdies than I used to have."

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