Nelson Successfully Defends In Grand Rapids<
When Marietta, Ga. resident Larry Nelson, the 2000 Senior PGA Tour's Player of the Year, won this year's Farmers Charity Classic at Egypt Valley Country Club in the Grand Rapids suburb of Ada, it was Nelson's second successful title defense in a three-week period. Nelson, 53, had never successfully defended a Tour championship until he won this year's FleetBoston Classic on June 24. He won the Farmers Charity Classic the weekend after the Fourth of July.
Nelson, who won 10 times on the PGA Tour, increased his number of Senior Tour wins to 15 when he shot a 4-under 68 in the final round, to win the Farmers Charity Classic by one stroke over Jim Ahern and two strokes over Dana Quigley and Walter Hall. Nelson, who finished the tournament with a 14-under 202, claimed the victory when his par putt on the final hole stopped on the lip before dropping into the cup. He had sent a long birdie putt eight feet past the hole. "Putting from 35 or 40 feet is the worst part of my game," said Nelson, whose victory was his fourth of the year on the Senior PGA Tour. "For some reason I am not a very good putter from that distance. I proved that again, but the important thing is that I made it coming back. I was so confused on the greens all day that if I hadn't hit (the par putt) the right speed it wouldn't have gone in, because it went in sideways."
With the $210,000 winner's share that Nelson collected, from the tournament's record $1.4 million purse, he increased his year's earnings to almost $1.5 million. The victory also moved Nelson in the second position on the money list, behind Bruce Fleischer. "The last two years when I've come here I have hit it very well," Nelson said. "It is easier to manage a golf course like this when you are hitting the ball well."
The stroke by which Nelson eventually won, came in the form of a birdie on the par-5 17th. He reached the green in two, with a 5-wood, then missed an eagle putt from the back of the green. "That (eagle) putt is one of the hardest putts on this golf course, because there is no way you can read that much speed and that much break," he said. "The best way to make birdie is to barely miss eagle."
Ahern, 52, opened the final round three strokes behind Nelson and Bob Gilder. He reached 14-under through 14 holes, but then slipped while executing his tee shot on 15. That tee shot hit a tree and Ahern eventually bogeyed the hole to slip back to 13-under. "There is one tree out there and I hit that tree," said Ahern, who missed a 10-foot par putt on 15. "I can't get too down on myself though, because I did a lot more good things than bad things this week. Second place is awfully good. I beat a lot of good players this week. I played here two years ago and if you had told me then that I would be disappointed finishing second, I would have called you a liar."
The Senior PGA Tour announced in early August that the 2002 Farmers Charity Classic will be played earlier than the Grand Rapids event has ever been played. Next year's scheduled dates for the Senior Tour stop is Friday through Sunday, May 24-26.
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