LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Hale Irwin survived a grueling week and a challenge from the Champions Tour’s newest player to win his fourth Senior PGA Championship.
Irwin birdied the 18th hole to win the weather-plagued event by one stroke over Jay Haas on Monday. The tournament was delayed five times in five days because of heavy rains.
Irwin led after each round at Valhalla Golf Club and finished at 8-under 276. He will turn 59 Thursday and was the oldest winner of the tournament since Pete Cooper won in 1976 at age 61.
“I’m proud, I’m relieved and I’m glad it’s over,” Irwin said. “It’s been an awkward week for everyone.”
The win was Irwin’s 40th on the Champions Tour and his seventh senior major.
Haas, playing in his first senior event after turning 50 in December, missed a 10-foot birdie putt on 18 as co-leader Irwin watched from the fairway.
Irwin’s approach to the 535-yard par-5 landed on the lower tier of the undulating green, about 40 feet away. He rolled a hard-breaking putt within a foot and tapped in for the victory.
“I can’t say I was happy with what I was looking at,” Irwin said of his second-to-last putt. “Fortunately, I read it well.”
Haas, who has four top-10 finishes on the regular PGA tour this year, has not won a tournament since 1993.
“That’s disappointing that I didn’t get that done,” Haas said. “I had as good an opportunity as I’m going to have.”
Craig Stadler shot a final-round 69 to finish third, three shots behind Irwin.
Tom Watson had a final-round 73 and finished tied for fourth at 282 with Dave Barr (74) and Mark James (69).
Irwin was 9 under and led Haas by two shots with eight holes to go. Irwin then bogeyed 11 and 12 to drop into a tie.
Irwin made an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 13th, then reeled off four straight pars to keep Haas one back. With a stiff breeze blowing in his face, Irwin pulled his approach to the par-4 17th into a bunker. He blasted out and two-putted for a bogey that left them tied with one hole to go.
Haas hit the fairway with his drive, but knocked a fairway wood over the green. He pitched past the hole and missed the birdie putt.
“I just hit a very poor putt, probably one of the worst shots I hit all day,” Haas said.
He watched from the scoring trailer and smiled when Irwin birdied. The two shook hands behind the green after Irwin won.
Haas can now refocus on another goal: trying to become the oldest player ever to qualify for the Ryder Cup team. Players can’t earn points at senior events and Haas considered going to last week’s PGA Tour stop, in Memphis, Tenn.
He was glad he came to Valhalla.
“I gave it 100 percent here, just the way I would do at any event,” Haas said. “I feel like I’m going to play enough tour events to — if I play well — have enough opportunities to make points and make the team.”
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