Gilder Wins Verizon Golf Classic

Monday, February 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LUTZ, Fla. (AP) — Jack Nicklaus played the first two rounds of the Verizon Classic looking confident he was closing in on his first tournament victory since 1996.

Then, his short game got away from him in Sunday's final round.

Nicklaus, who trailed Hale Irwin by two strokes heading into the round, shot a 75 and finished tied for 20th as Bob Gilder shot a 4-under 67 to win his first Senior PGA Tour title.

``Of course it's disappointing,'' said Nicklaus, the first-round leader. ``I felt good this morning. I felt composed and felt very confident about what I was going to do.''

Nicklaus hit 14 greens on the TPC at Tampa Bay course, considered one of the toughest on the senior circuit. But his putter deserted him as he missed five makable birdie putts on the front nine.

``It was just one of those days. I felt like I played pretty well,'' Nicklaus said. ``If I go out on the last round of a tournament and hit 14 greens, I would think I would come up with a pretty good score and I didn't do it.''

``As the day went on today, I just kept not making anything I needed to make.''

Gilder had an 8-under 205 total for a three-stroke victory over 2000 winner Bruce Fleisher, Gil Morgan, Bobby Walzel and Ray Floyd.

It was Gilder's first win since the PGA Tour's 1983 Phoenix Open.

``That was a long time ago,'' Gilder said. ``When you haven't won for that long, you wonder a little bit if it will happen again.''

Gilder's short game was solid, as he made three birdie putts of at least 16 feet.

``It carried me through,'' Gilder said. ``It gives you a lot of confidence when you know you can putt and chip.''

Allen Doyle, Larry Nelson and Christy O'Connor Jr. tied for sixth at 209. Irwin shot a 74 to tie for ninth at 210.

Gilder earned $210,000. His biggest previous paycheck, $72,000, came when he won the 1982 Westchester Classic.