This year, Fleisher got the last word.
Fleisher carded an even-par 280 at the Salem Country Club and then sat aside and watched as one-by-one his rivals fell into the black.
Fleisher talks about winning on such a tough course
Fleisher parred his final 12 holes for a 2-under-par 68. Gil Morgan (70) and Isao Aoki (73) tied for second at 1-over-par 281.
Im glad its over, said Fleisher. To have just one guy hang on, it doesnt surprise me with how difficult this course was.
I knew that par would be a good score. I thought that someone else would finish even and it would be a playoff. Im glad it didnt happen; Ive got to be honest with you. I didnt want to go back out there.
Six players were at even par or one stroke back on Sunday before reaching the 15th hole, a 223-yard par-3.
It was on that hole that Jack Nicklaus, Larry Nelson and Irwin were effectually eliminated from the championship.
Nicklaus was tied for the lead at even par when he tried to hit a 1-iron onto the green at 15. He failed to do so and made bogey. Nicklaus added another bogey at the 16th to finish the tournament at 2-over and in a tie for fourth.
I kind of enjoyed being in the hunt, said Nicklaus, who was in search of his first victory since 1996. Standing on the 10th green, I turned around and I said, You know, Im a little nervous. I said, Thats good. Thats fun.
Nelson started the round at 1-under, but didnt record a birdie in the final round. He bogeyed Nos. 9, 11, 15, 16 and 18 for a round of 75. He tied for seventh at 4-over.
Irwin, who shot a final-round 65 to overtake Fleisher in the 2000 Senior Open, bogeyed the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to finish in a tie for 11th at 5-over.
Aoki, who led by one shot entering the final round at 2-under-par, dropped off the lead with a bogey at the 17th, while Morgan bogeyed the 18th when he missed the green with his approach shot.
Fleishers prime rival proved to be Colbert.
The 60-year-old holed his bunker shot at the 15th to take a one-shot lead at 1-under. However, with a wedge in hand, he came up woefully short of the green at the par-4 16th and made bogey.
Still tied with Fleisher at even par while playing the 72nd hole, Colbert hit his tee shot into the left rough. He got a break with a good lie, but then pulled his approach shot into the grandstands.
Colberts third shot once again scattered fans as he flew the green. He would mercifully card a double-bogey 6 to finish in fourth place with Nicklaus and Allen Doyle (69).
The win was Fleishers 14th on tour, but his first major. He earned $430,000 for the victory.
Fleisher joined Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as the only men to win the U.S. Amateur and the Senior Open. Fleisher won the Amateur in 1968.
Its been a long time coming, said Fleisher.
Full-field scores from the 22nd U.S. Senior Open