Fuzzys First Win a Major Triumph

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Senior PGA Championship logoAKRON, Ohio -- Fuzzy Zoeller holed clutch par saves on the back nine Sunday to hang on and win the Senior PGA Championship. He shot a final-round 2-under 68 and won the tournament as the only player under par in the field, coming in at 2-under-par 278.
 
'There's no greater feeling in the world,' said Zoeller, who pocketed a career-best $360,000 for the win. 'I know these guys are a little older but victory lane is just something special.'
 
Zoeller had not won anywhere since the 1986 Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic. He won 10 times on tour, including the 1979 Masters and the 1984 U.S. Open, but never won a PGA Championship. Zoeller finished second to fellow Senior Tour member Larry Nelson in the 1981 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.
 
'I wasn't sure I'd ever win again,' he said. 'Every time I got close, somebody seemed to play a little better.'
 
Hale Irwin, a three-time Senior PGA Champion, shared second place with overnight leader Bobby Wadkins. Irwin posted a 68 Sunday while Wadkins carded a 1-over 71 to join Irwin at even-par 280.
 
Jim Thorpe, the winner of the tour's first major, The Tradition, tied for fourth with Roy Vucinich at plus 1.
 
Japan's Seiji Ebihara put his name in Senior Tour record books Sunday. He opened the round with seven consecutive birdies and added another at No. 9 to fire an 8-under 27 on the front-nine holes, matching the tour record set by Jay Sigel in the 1998 Bell Atlantic Classic.
 
'For the past three days, I have gone over par - 3-over, 3-over, 5-over,' Ebihara said through a translator. 'I was thinking I wanted to get under par. That's how it started.'
 
Ebihara stumbled home with three back-nine bogeys for a 5-under 65, the lowest round of the championship. He tied for 18th at 8-over-par 288 alongside the previous two champions of this event, Tom Watson (2001) and Doug Tewell (2000).
 
Zoeller made up the one-stroke difference between himself and Wadkins early with a 10-foot birdie at the first. Zoeller held the lead throughout Sunday's round and reached 2-under-par after a five-foot birdie putt on No. 11.
 
Wadkins, who played with Zoeller Sunday, ran home a birdie from three feet a hole later to get within one shot of Zoeller's lead.
 
At the 13th, Zoeller pulled his tee shot badly, landing in the left rough. He was unable to advance the ball only 50 yards but he wedged his approach to 10 feet. Zoeller stepped up and holed the putt to keep his one-shot lead over Wadkins.
 
'It seemed like every time I was out today, my putter saved me,' said Zoeller. 'That putt at 13 was very crucial. Those are the things that happen when you win tournaments.'
 
'I was seeing somebody doing his job,' Wadkins said. 'He hit a bad tee shot and then a bad second shot. He caught a good break when it hit the tree and came straight down into the lighter rough. Then he got up and down for par.
 
'Not having won for a while, if he makes double bogey there, it's a different ballgame.'
 
Both players parred 14 but the advantage clearly landed with Zoeller at the par-3 15th. Wadkins landed in a bunker and could not get up and down to save par. Zoeller roped a 3-iron seven feet from the hole where he two-putted for par and a one-shot lead.
 
Zoeller was erratic with the driver again on 17 when he pushed his tee ball into thick rough on the right side. He had no shot at the pin with trees in his way so he played long and left of the green where he chipped to eight feet. Zoeller once again holed a big par save and played 18 with a two-shot lead.
 
Zoeller found the fairway at 18 and knocked his approach to 10 feet. At that point, Zoeller raised his arms and the large gallery voiced their approval, a sign that Senior Tour officials like to see.
 
When Zoeller joined the elder circuit earlier this year, it was thought that he could provide some star power to an organization sorely lacking in that department. Television ratings and attendance are down but Zoeller downplayed what impact he can have on that.
 
'I'm just one person. We're doing a lot of positives for the game of golf on the senior tour,' Zoeller said. 'We don't want people to think we're clones. We want to show them we're human. I know I am.'
 
Final results from the Senior PGA Championship