Irwin Wins Nationwide Championship

Monday, May 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (AP) — Hale Irwin defended his Nationwide Championship title Sunday, using impeccable course management for a 3-under-par 69 and a one-stroke victory over Vincente Fernandez and Tom Jenkins.

A birdie at the par-4 12th moved Irwin to nine under and gave the three-time U.S. Open champion a lead he never relinquished. Irwin closed with six straight pars for a 9-under 207 total, his 26th Senior PGA Tour victory and the first prize of $217,500.

Irwin needs three more victories to pass Lee Trevino for most wins on the senior tour. His victory at the Golf Club of Georgia last year, which came when he eagled the par-5 18th by holing a wedge from 74 yards, started a run of five straight wins.

Fernandez and Jenkins, who both started the day three shots behind second-round leader Larry Nelson and one behind Irwin, shot 69s to tie for second at 208.

Fernandez finished second at the Royal Caribbean Classic on Feb. 6.

Jenkins, who earned his first top-three finish of the year, pushed his 6-iron close to the water on the par-3 17th, chipped within five feet and missed the putt.

Irwin, the first repeat champion at the Nationwide, increased his record earnings at the 10-year-old event to $843,100.

Nelson, who began the day with a one-shot lead over Walter Hall and Mark Hayes, birdied the first two holes to go 10 under, but followed with two straight bogeys. Despite getting back to nine under with a birdie at the par-4 8th, Nelson bogeyed Nos. 10 and 11 and never recovered. His 74 left him tied for seventh.

Hall and Hayes also unraveled.

Hall, who finished with a 77, played the final nine holes six over par and finished in a tie for 21st.

Hayes, the first-round leader, had no birdies in his final round and closed with a 75.

On a day that began with eight players within three shots of the lead, Mike McCullough matched a course record by playing the back nine in five under. McCullough, who birdied all four of the par-5s, finished with a 65.

Gil Morgan eagled No. 18 for a 70 and tied McCullough for fourth at 209.

Divots: Bob Murphy, who won the 1995 Nationwide and finished second last year, birdied Nos. 14, 16 and 18 to finish in a tie for seventh place with a 68. ... A double-bogey at the par-4 16th ruined Bruce Summerhays' chances. At five under after the double bogey, Summerhays bogeyed the last two holes to finish with a 74. ... Tom Watson birdied 16 and 18 to finish with a 70 and in a tie for eighth. Watson is still seeking his first senior win.