Vantage Championship
Vantage Championship
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Gibson wins first tour title

Fred Gibson didn't out-think himself today en route to the Vantage Championship.

"I learned three things this week: Stay out of your own way, stay out of your own way and stay out of your own way," said Gibson, who became the 11th first-time winner on the Senior PGA Tour this season by making birdies on four of the final five holes. "If you are playing good it will happen."

Gibson, who tied the course record with a 62 Saturday, entered the final round one shot behind leader Tom Jenkins and shot a 6-under 64 for a three-shot victory and the $225,000 first-place prize -- by far the largest of his career. He won a measly $704 during his playing days on the PGA Tour.

"It was sort of like stepping out of the picture and watching yourself play those last five holes," Gibson said of his strong finish. "It is what you've worked for, it is what you get on the putting green and practice for."

Gibson moved into 26th place on the money list and in contention for the Tour Championship the first week of November. The top 31 players get invites to the prestigious event.

"The whole idea of coming out here is to win, but that's just a small part of it," Gibson said. "The top 31 gives you that feeling that you belong in the top echelon of the players."

Gibson's 15-under 195 total tied the tournament mark set by Hale Irwin in 1997.

The 52-year-old former club pro, who won his $704 at the 1980 Kemper Open in Charlotte, had only six top 10 finishes on the senior tour in 63 events prior to Sunday's victory on the 6,600-yard Tanglewood Park layout.

Senior tour rookie Bruce Fleisher, a five-time winner this season, shot a final-round 65 to finish at 12-under 198.

Jay Sigel had a final-round 63 to finish third at 11 under. Jenkins ended up six shots off the pace.

Fleisher's $132,000 second-place prize moved him ahead of Irwin to the top of the money list with five events left.

The 11 first-time winners is a record for the senior tour. It came in the season's 36th tournament.

Fleisher birdied his first three holes to make a move on the leaders and led Gibson by one with a front-side 30, but he bogeyed Nos. 10 and 11 to fall behind Gibson for good.

"Coming out of the box I really felt like it was going to be my day," said Fleisher, who is $51,000 shy of $2 million for the year. "But Freddy Gibson just said, 'Nope.' He shot a 64 and he deserved to win."

Gibson got up-and-down from a bunker to save par on No. 12 before going on his birdie binge over the final five holes. He made tap-ins at Nos. 14 and 18, and made a 5-footer and 12-footer for his other two birdies to sew up the victory.

Jenkins started the day 10 under and had the best final-round average on tour this year, but shot a 1-over 36 on the front side and never could get his game going en route to a 1-over 71.

Sigel, who owns the best comeback in senior tour history, almost pulled off another gem with a final-round 63. The former Wake Forest golfer, who played Tanglewood numerous times in college, started the day six shots behind Jenkins.

Sigel, who has struggled this season with a sore shoulder, quickly closed on the leaders with four birdies over his first seven holes. But he couldn't keep pace with Gibson on the back side and settled for his best finish since late August.

"This is crunch time for everybody, particularly for me," said Sigel, who moved to 32nd on the money list with his strong finish. "I haven't been in this situation before, and I tell you it isn't a lot of fun. In this sport, you've got to take baby steps."

Sigel has finished fourth on the senior tour money list each of the last two seasons before slumping this year.

 


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