Gilder wins as Irwin thrashes through playoff

Monday, July 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ On the first playoff hole, Bob Gilder watched as Hale Irwin tried to make the best of an impossible lie and somehow extend the SBC Senior Open.

Irwin's second shot out of a bunker had hit a cart path and jumped into what Gilder called ``the hay.'' Irwin could have used a pitchfork, not a golf club, to handle the high grass that nearly swallowed his ball.

Irwin's misadventure Sunday sent Gilder to his first victory of the season. Gilder had missed a final-hole putt that would have won the tournament in regulation.

On a steamy day with temperatures at Harborside International in the high 90s, Gilder closed with a 1-under-par 71 and Irwin, a three-time winner in the event, had a 66. Both were at 12-under 204.

In the playoff, Irwin tried to hit the ball sideways to the fairway on his first swing and just barely moved the ball. His second one _ his fourth shot overall _ came out fast, rolled quickly across the fairway and into the lake bordering No. 18.

When he finally reached the green, Irwin already had six shots.

``I saw that the first one didn't come out and I said, `OK, let's not make a mistake,''' Gilder said. ``Then when he hit the second one and it went across the fairway into the water, it was basically over. I'm not going to blow it unless he holes in from there.''

And he didn't. Gilder, who had landed in the same bunker as Irwin on his tee shot, hit his second shot into the rough _ but not the hay. He reached the green with his third and two-putted for a par.

``I know he was upset. These things happen,'' Gilder said. ``You'd hate to have it happen to you on a playoff. You don't give yourself a chance.''

Irwin was five strokes behind Gilder after the second round. Gilder shot a course-record 63 on Saturday.

Irwin, playing four groups ahead, briefly forged ahead before Gilder rallied. He tied Irwin at 12 under with a birdie on No. 16 and then rimmed a birdie putt that would have won on the final hole of regulation.

``The best putt I hit all day, except for 16,'' Gilder said.

Irwin, 0-4 in senior playoffs, said it was difficult to stay loose while he waited nearly 40 minutes for the final group to finish.

``Hitting in the bunker wasn't so bad. I played a lofted club, the wind got it and it went dead right. Once it hit the cart path, I was pretty much cooked,'' Irwin said.

``I had a precarious lie and I had to take an unusual stance. The ball was lying on an old piece of grass, teetering up in the air 3 or 4 inches.

``I thought I could hit it and then when I didn't advance it, it was sitting down. All I did was hit the top of the ball and it went out fast. I didn't have much of a choice.''

Gilder won $217,500 for his third tour win. Irwin, the three-time U.S. Open champion who has 34 senior victories, earned $127,600.

Bruce Fleisher shot a 66 to finish third at 10 under.