State Farm Senior Classic
State Farm Senior Classic
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O'Connor wins first senior title

Christy O'Connor, a longtime European star playing on a sponsor's exemption, posted his first victory in the United States, holding off Bruce Fleisher for a one-stroke triumph in the State Farm Senior Classic today.

O'Connor shot a 5-under 67 for a 54-hole total of 18-under 198. The Irishman let a 5-shot lead dwindle to one with seven holes left, but he never wavered in completing a wire-to-wire win.

When his final putt fell at 18, O'Connor thrust his arms upward and stared at the sky before hugging his caddie. He then held back tears upon accepting the trophy, telling tournament officials that he was dedicating the victory to his son Daren, 17, who died in a car accident last September.

Fleisher, the leading money winner on the tour, shot a bogey-free 65 and finished at 199. Dana Quigley was third, shooting a 68 for 207.

Hubert Green and Terry Dill tied for fourth at 208.

The victory, in only his sixth start on the Senior PGA Tour, gives O'Connor an exemption for the next year. He was to have played for his Senior Tour card last fall, but he scrapped those plans after Daren's death.

O'Connor won six titles on the European Tour, twice played on the European Ryder Cup team, and finished third in the 1985 British Open. But he never received a check as sizeable as the one he collected today. The $195,000 top prize propelled him to 31st on the Senior PGA Tour money list.

O'Connor and Fleisher were the only two golfers with a reasonable chance to win the tournament, as the other contenders dropped back early in the day.

Weathering 97-degree temperature and the pressure associated with earning a one-year exemption, O'Connor kept the heat on Fleisher by never making a bogey. In fact, O'Connor made only one bogey the entire tournament, at the eighth hole Friday.

O'Connor started the day with a 3-shot lead over Fleisher and maintained the advantage after both players parred the opening two holes. O'Connor then expanded the margin to 5 strokes with three straight birdies, capping the run with an 18-foot putt at No. 5.

At that point, O'Connor appeared poised to cruise to his first victory on American soil. As he parred the next six holes, Fleisher made four birdies to cut the margin to one stroke.

O'Connor then gave himself some breathing room, making an 8-foot birdie putt at 12 after Fleisher's bid for a birdie fell inches short. After O'Connor pushed his putt into the hole, he pumped his fist in glee.

O'Connor again pumped his fist at 15, where he sank a 7-foot birdie putt to open up a 3-shot lead. Fleisher birdied 16 and 18, but it wasn't enough.

O'Connor expected his wife to arrive in Chicago tonight. Together, they will travel to Iowa for next week's U.S. Senior Open.

Green began the round in third place, five strokes back, but he double bogeyed the first hole and dropped further back with a bogey at No. 4.

Allen Doyle plummeted off the leaderboard with a triple-bogey 7 at the second hole. Doyle, who began the tournament ranked second on the money list, shot a 73 and finished at 211.