PEABODY, Mass. (AP) _ A year after losing a final-round lead to a red-hot rival, Bruce Fleisher won the U.S. Senior Open by a stroke Sunday for his first major title as Jack Nicklaus and other challengers fell off the pace.
Fleisher, runner-up to Hale Irwin in the Senior Open last year, parred the final 12 holes for 2-under 68 and an even-par total of 280. Isao Aoki and Gil Morgan tied for second at 1 over for 72 holes at the 6,709-yard Salem Country Club.
The victory was worth $430,000.
Fleisher won once on the PGA Tour and 13 times as a senior, but the closest he got to a major was at the Senior Open last year, when he took a 2-stroke lead into the final round at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa.
But Irwin shot a 6-under 65 in the final round to beat Fleisher by 3 strokes and post the lowest total _ 17 under _ in tournament history. Fleisher was the first-round leader this year and the only golfer to break par on the opening day.
Six players were at even par or 1 stroke back on Sunday before hitting the 15th hole, a 223-yard par 3 that demonstrated why it was the hardest hole on the course by effectively eliminating Irwin, Nicklaus and Larry Nelson.
Aoki dropped off the lead with a bogey on No. 17, a 476-yard par 4, when he left his approach short and two-putted. Jim Colbert and Morgan dropped strokes on No. 18, a 423-yard par 4.
Irwin lurked at 2 over before consecutive bogeys at Nos. 15, 16 and 17 left him at 5 over. Nicklaus, who was 2 under on the front nine to grab a share of the lead, added a bogey on No. 16 to finish the tournament at 2 over, tied for fourth.
Colbert chipped in for birdie on the 15th to take a short-lived lead at 1 under, but he bogeyed No. 16 and double bogeyed the 18th after he had already lost his chance to win. He finished tied with Nicklaus and Allen Doyle, who birdied Nos. 12 and 14 to improve to 2 over but never got closer.
Nelson started at 1 under after completing the rain-delayed third round in the morning. But he didn't record a single birdie in the final round, dropping to 4 over with bogeys on Nos. 9, 11, 15, 16 and 18.
The top 14 players completed the third round that had been suspended Saturday by thunder, lightning and torrential rains. Aoki birdied the 18th hole on Sunday morning to improve to 2 under-par and take a one-stroke lead into the final round.
The players teed off for the final round on the front and back nines in threesomes rather than twosomes because of the threat of more bad weather Sunday afternoon.
Divots: Aoki hadn't had the lead in the final round of a senior event since the 1998 Emerald Coast Classic, in which he tied for fourth. ... Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C., was the low amateur at 14 over. ... Nelson, who finished up a third-round 68 on Sunday morning, was in the 60s in five of his last seven rounds.