Ahern Wins Wire-to-Wire

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jim Ahern carded a 3-under 69 on Sunday to complete the wire-to-wire victory at the Music City Championship at Gaylord Opryland. He finished with a new tournament record at 20-under-par 196 and beat Jose Maria Canizares by four strokes.
 
'All I can tell you is there's no greater feeling than winning,' said Ahern, who pocketed $210,000 for the win. 'I'm not a Hale Irwin or Bruce Fleisher who wins six to seven tournaments a year.'
 
Ahern's three-day total of 196 bested Isao Aoki's previous tournament record by two strokes. Irwin also equaled the number of 198 when he hoisted the trophy in 2000.
 
The win was Ahern's second since joining the Champions Tour. He last won the Canada Senior Open Championship in 1999 and on Sunday he became the 14th different winner in 14 events on the elder circuit in 2003.
 
Ahern started out strongly again on Sunday at the par-5 first. He knocked his second shot to five feet but his eagle putt lipped out of the hole. Ahern settled for a birdie and added another at the par-4 fourth when he sank a downhill 20-footer.
 
Ahern bogeyed the par-3 eighth hole but it was Canizares' birdie tear on the back nine that jumped Canizares up the leaderboard. Both players birdied the 10th but Canizares birdied 12, 13 and 14 to cut Ahern's once huge lead to two.
 
'When it got down to two strokes, you never know,' said Ahern. 'Two strokes can disappear like that out there.'
 
At the par-3 15th, Canizares missed the green but chipped his second to four feet. The par-saving putt lipped out and Canizares left with bogey and a three-shot deficit with only three holes to play.
 
'I hit a nice chip and missed the putt,' said Canizares. 'Without making that shot, it was impossible to win the tournament.'
 
Ahern wrapped the tournament up at the 16th. He ran home a four-foot birdie putt to put him four ahead of Canizares. Ahern parred out to win for the first time in nearly four years.
 
'If you go out there at the beginning of the day to protect your lead, you're going to have problems' he said. 'I wanted to stay aggressive and keep making birdies. I didn't want to back off. My goal was to double the lead,'
 
Canizares posted a 5-under 67 to earn his highest finish of the 2003 campaign.
 
'It was so difficult because of Jimmy,' Canizares said. 'I said on Saturday I had to make a 61 or 62.'
 
Larry Nelson, the course designer of Springhouse Golf Club, shot an 8-under-par 64 on Sunday to finish alone in third place at 15-under-par 201.
 
Ed Dougherty (66) and Tom Jenkins (69) shared fourth place at 13-under-par 203, followed by Irwin (67) and Hugh Baiocchi (70), who tied for sixth at minus-11.
 
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from Music City Championship
  • Full coverage of the Music City Championship