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LARRY NELSON wins FleetBoston Classic

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CONCORD, Mass. (AP) _ Everything is going well for Tom Kite heading into the U.S. Senior Open.

Everything, that is, except for his karma.

After coming in fifth at the U.S. Open - the highest finish ever for a senior in a regular tour major - Kite was one stroke behind leader Larry Nelson in the FleetBoston Classic on Sunday with two holes to go.

On the par-3 17th, Kite lofted a perfect 7-iron at the flag 167 yards away. But the ball hit a bird in mid-flight, dropped into a pond and took Kite's chances of winning with it.

``The ball seemingly just fell out of the sky,'' said Kite, who wound up four strokes behind winner Larry Nelson. ``I got myself in position to win the tournament and just came up a little bit short.''

Nelson shot a 5-under 67 on Sunday finish three strokes ahead of Bruce Fleisher (66) and claim $210,000. Mike Hill (72) was four back, tied with Kite for third. Dana Quigley (68) and Allen Doyle (71) were fifth at 10 under as the tour heads to the Open at the Salem Country Club, about 30 miles away.

Nelson won his first two tournaments of the year, but struggled lately as he battled a pinched nerve in his back. Using a different driver each day and graphite shafts to take the pressure off his neck, he shot a 65 to take a one-stroke lead after the first day, followed by a 69 that left him at 10 under, one stroke behind Hill after two.

``This one was definitely a struggle on the back side,'' Nelson said. ``They say it's like riding a bicycle. This one was more like riding a unicycle.''

Nelson sank a 1-foot putt to birdie the final hole and ease into the victory at 15 under, a total of 201. It was the 14th victory of his senior career, but it was the first time he successfully defended a title.

Kite was the only other player at any point to reach 13 under. He was alone in second place when he hit what appeared to be a perfect tee shot at No. 17, but the ball hit the bird, killing it and knocking the ball into the water.

``Wow, that's a lousy break,'' said Fleisher, who was in Kite's group but thought, as Kite did, that the ball hit a gust of wind. ``That's sad, because he was playing with a lot of confidence. He birdies that hole and you can get home pretty easy on 18.''

Kite took a drop on the bank of the pond, then chipped the ball onto the green and two-putted for a 5. He parred No. 18 to finish at 11 under.

Kite said he also hit a bird once at Pebble Beach, where fairways run along the Pacific Ocean and seagulls sometimes swarm around the course. ``It's unfortunate when you have a chance to win the tournament,'' he said.

Asked if he wanted to see the television replay that showed his Titleist hitting the purple martin, Kite said he would pass.

``Looking at a replay, it's certainly not going to change the result, and it's not going to help me for next week,'' he said. ``That's what I'm thinking about now.''

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