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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2007 > Champions Tour > MasterCard Championship > Round 3


Hale Irwin coasts to 45th Senior victory

Hale Irwin didn't want spend another season chasing a win, so he got it out of the way with the first event.

Coming off his first winless season in 12 years, the 61-year-old Irwin won the Champions Tour's season-opening MasterCard Championship on Sunday, beating Jim Thorpe and Tom Kite by five strokes for his tour-record 45th victory.

"I can still play," Irwin said. "Whether there's a 46th out there or a 56th, I don't know. All I know is I've got 45."

Irwin closed with a 7-under 65 for a 23-under 193 total and earned $290,000 for his ninth Champions Tour victory in Hawaii. The three-time U.S. Open winner also became the sixth-oldest winner on the 50-and-over circuit.

"Rather than just saying, 'Gosh, I'm closer to 62 than I am to 61, I better start slowing down.' I don't accept that," he said.

So he spent the offseason working out in the gym, tweaking his putting stroke and experimenting with new equipment.

Last year, he was shutout for the first time since joining the Champions Tour in 1995 and saw his streak of seasons with $1 million in winnings end at 10. His last win was the SAS Championship in October 2005, a streak of 25 tournaments.

"Just to get back in the winner's column again and be a noticeable factor at this stage in my career. It's very satisfying and I'm very proud of what I accomplished this week," he said.

He has dominated in Hawaii like no other golfer, winning nine times on the senior tour, including the 1997 MasterCard, and also taking the PGA Tour's 1981 Hawaiian Open. He has $4.1 million in winnings, including unofficial money, in the state.

"He's an expensive dude," Irwin said about Hawaii's tax collector.

Thorpe said Irwin was "determined."

"We just weren't going to beat him," said Thorpe, who closed with a 66 to match Kite (67) at 18 under.

Irwin, three strokes ahead of Kite and Brad Bryant at 16 under at the start of the round, pulled away at the end of the day behind his masterful short game. He attacked the pins early, birdieing three of his first four holes.

He sealed the win with his birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 that put him at 23 under and turned it to a race for second place. He had seven one-putts on the front nine, making the turn at 32.

"He was magical on the greens," Kite said.

Irwin has been almost unbeatable when leading or sharing the lead heading into Sunday, winning 30 of 41 times.

"What I hoped to accomplish, I accomplished in a big way this week," he said. "The major concern last year was the short game."

He has officially put 2006 behind him.

"I don't dwell too much on the past," he said. "The only thing I try to take care of is what I'm doing right now."

Defending champion Loren Roberts shot his second straight 67 to finish fourth at 17 under. Champions Tour player of the year Jay Haas (66) was another stroke back along with Bryant (70) at 15 under.

With only a soft ocean breeze, the players had their third straight day of low-scoring conditions. They tore through Hualalai, a resort course with wide fairways, reachable par 5s, perfect greens and spectacular views of Mount Hualalai and the Pacific Ocean.

Conditions will be much more difficult when they head to Turtle Bay this week.

Irwin has won at Turtle Bay five times.

"I'm not going to do a whole lot of changing, it's going too good right now," he said.


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