GTE Classic
GTE Classic
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Nelson wins from Fleisher

LUTZ, Fla. - Larry Nelson used a solid final nine holes to turn back Bruce Fleisher's bid for a third consecutive win to begin his Senior PGA Tour career, winning the GTE Classic by two strokes.

Nelson, who shot even-par on the front side of the Tournament Players Club of Tampa Bay, had an eagle at No. 14 and two birdies in a steady drizzle on the way to a 4-under-par 67.

That matched Fleisher's round and gave Nelson a three-day total of 8-under 205. Fleisher was second at 207.

"Larry played great. He deserved to win,'' said Fleisher, who last week became the only player ever to win each of his first two Senior PGA Tour events.

It was the fourth Senior PGA Tour win for Nelson, who joined the tour in the autumn of 1997 and won twice by July of 1998. However, he was forced to miss seven weeks last year with a herniated disc.

Graham Marsh's closing 66 was good for third at 208. Another stroke back were Jim Dent and Hale Irwin, who both shot 70s today after starting the day one stroke off the lead.

Fleisher, playing in the group right in front of Nelson, put the heat on early by playing the front side in 3-under-par. The Miami resident even took a one-shot lead when Nelson bogeyed the ninth hole.

"I just had one thing in mind -- hitting it in the fairway and on the greens,'' Nelson said. "I did that on all the front-nine holes ... and Bruce passed me on No. 9. So I figured that was not a plan that was going to work. From then on, I was a little bit more aggressive.''

Nelson just missed a birdie at the 10th hole, then hit a 5-iron within three feet at No. 11 and drained the putt for a birdie.

"That kind of jump-started me,'' Nelson said.

It was the 528-yard 14th hole that won it for Nelson, however. He reached the green in two with a 5-wood from 242 yards, then rolled in the 25-foot eagle putt.

"I didn't realise what he did until the 16th green,'' Fleisher said. "I had no idea. I looked up at the scoreboard and thought, 'Wow, he's going to be hard to catch.' ''

Nelson's victory was worth $180,000, while Fleisher's runner-up check of $105,600 gives him $435,600 in three events.

"I had a wonderful front nine,'' Fleisher said. "But I didn't make much happen coming down the stretch. It always seemed I was a foot off the green, putting out of the fringe.''