Las Vegas Senior Invitational
Las Vegas Senior Invitational
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Fernandez shoots 67 to win

Argentina's Vicente Fernandez, who finished second in the 1998 Las Vegas Senior Classic, won this year's title today with a 13-under-par 274 at the Tournament Players Club at Summerlin.

The two-stroke win over Dave Eichelberger ended a 20-month drought for Fernandez. He finished second twice this season, at the ACE Group Classic and the PGA Seniors' Championship. His last title came in 1997 at the Bank One Classic in Lexington, Ky.

Fernandez broke a tie with Eichelberger by making a 30-foot putt for an eagle 3 on the 560-yard, par-5 16th hole.

"Winning is very special," said Fernandez, who carded a 5-under-par 67 in the final round for a 72-hole score of 274 and earned $210,000. "I was close after my last win, which was Kentucky in '97. I was close last year. I was close this year.

"But I took it like this -- I was close because I was doing well, and it was a matter of time for me to get a win."

Eichelberger shot a 68 in the final round to finish with a 276. John Mahaffey took third place with a 277 following a final-round 67.

Frank Conner and Tom Wargo shared fourth place at 278, while defending champion Hale Irwin was sixth at 279.

Heading to the 16th hole, Fernandez had four birdies and one bogey and was tied with Eichelberger. His drive put him 214 yards from the hole, and his next shot left him with the crucial 30-foot putt, which he sank.

"I was not aware he eagled 16," said Eichelberger, who was one group ahead on the next hole. "I heard the yelling back there and I looked back from 17 and (Isao) Aoki was walking over to get his ball out of the hole. I didn't hear anything else.

"It might have been while I was putting, but I didn't realize that he eagled 16. I was surprised he was able to knock it on in two."

Fernandez continued to play well, barely missing birdie opportunities on the 17th and 18th holes. But all he needed was a pair of pars to win with some breathing room.

"Going to the last two holes with two shots ... it's a bit different than going with only one," Fernandez said. "I like playing out here. Maybe the weather helps me more than other players. It's dry weather, warm but dry. I think I also like this course a lot, maybe because it suits my game."

Divots: Fernandez, of Buenos Aires, has been in the United States for eight weeks competing in Senior PGA Tour events. He plans to return to Argentina on Monday for a short break. ... Third-round leader Fred Gibson dropped to eighth place with 71 on the final round, leaving him at 281 -- one shot behind John Jacobs. Gibson had three bogeys and a double-bogey on the front nine Sunday. ... Mahaffey continues to play well this season with six top-10 finishes in his last 10 events. He played especially well in the final two rounds in Las Vegas with a 66 on Saturday followed by Sunday's 67. ... Fernandez went over the $3 million mark in Senior PGA Tour career earnings at $3,027,141. He is in fourth place on the 1999 money list with $735,638.

 

 

AP


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