Gilder does number

54-year-old Oregonian finishes record-setting 18-under at Hayfields, captures Constellation Energy Classic by four shots over Hatalsky

September 19, 2005|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun reporter

How firm was Bob Gilder's control of the Constellation Energy Classic?

The 54-year-old from Oregon wasted two-plus days' of pacesetting work with a double-bogey dip into the pond on the par-3 third hole, but steadied himself while his pursuers spun their wheels and actually made the turn with a bigger cushion than he had at the start of the final round.

Gilder's unassuming visage evokes Mister Magoo, but his eyes turned steely when it counted, as he completed a wire-to-wire romp with a 5-under 67, a record-setting 54-hole total of 18-under at Hayfields Country Club and a four-stroke win, his first on the Champions Tour since April 2003.

"I never thought I'd shoot that number on this course," Gilder said. "I'm a little surprised I played this well."

He matched the lowest score of the year on the Champions Tour, which had its 15th winner in as many events. This year's tour and the $1.7 million CEC had become known for their tight finishes, but Gilder finished four shots in front of Morris Hatalsky.

Curtis Strange, completing the best tournament of his rookie season on the Champions Tour, finished third with a 3-under 69 that got him to 13-under. D.A. Weibring was disappointed with the 71 that relegated him to 12-under, while John Bland's 68 got him a share of fifth with Tom Watson at 11-under.

Gilder opened with a 64 Friday that tied the course record, and closed with a round that only Graham Marsh equaled. Whether the tour is Nationwide, PGA or Champions, it's still final-round pressure, and the only men within hailing distance couldn't make anything happen, or couldn't sustain it if they did.

"I'm a little surprised nobody made a big move," Gilder said. "If someone had been there at the end, I don't know how I would have reacted."

"It's Sunday," said Strange, who was a stroke back after five holes but lost steam with a three-putt bogey from 6 feet on No. 11. Watson wore a Ravens purple shirt and had a day only slightly better than Brian Billick's.

"I just couldn't get any putts to drop," said Watson, who lipped out birdie attempts on the first two holes, made his first bogey of the tournament on the 43rd and shot 71.

On the front nine, the final group of Gilder, Hatalsky and Weibring attracted one-fifth of the gallery that followed Strange, Watson and Bruce Fleisher, directly in front.

Gilder birdied the first two holes to pad his lead to four strokes, but a three-shot swing near high noon brought drama and heat that would have withered a less assured player.

A gusting tailwind on the third hole had Gilder club down from 183 yards. He chunked it short, right and into the water.

"Uh-oh," Gilder went. "I told myself, `Don't be this stupid,' and throw it away, but I was able to regain my composure."

He flipped the offending 7-iron to his caddie, took his drop on a tee box 130 yards out, and left that wedge short. His playing partners jumped on Gilder's first five in 15 holes with birdie putts, and when Hatalsky got to 13-under with another on No. 4, Gilder had to share the lead for the first time since early Friday.

When Strange birdied No. 5 and joined Weibring at 12-under, one stroke separated the top four, but the logjam did not last.

Gilder separated himself from Hatalsky with a birdie on No. 5, a reachable par on which Weibring went the wrong way with a double bogey on three straight lousy shots, the middle mistake into the water. Hatalsky bogeyed No. 6, and Gilder rolled in a left-to-right birdie from 25 feet on No. 9 to take a three-shot lead at the turn.

"Bob made that one little blip," Hatalsky said, "and other than that, he was rock solid. You see how he bounced back, that shows character."

The two were teammates at Arizona State in the early 1970s, and Hatalsky was the first to congratulate Gilder, doing so after a 3-wood got the winner on the par-5 No. 6 in two. After Gilder chipped in for par on 18, the two embraced.

Gilder won seven events in his first three seasons on the Champions Tour, but became so disgusted with his putting in early June that he switched from a cross-handed grip to a claw in mid-tournament.

He had just two top 10 finishes and $457,185 in official earnings before he caught fire in Hunt Valley and earned a first-place check of $255,000.

"I was just waiting for something good to happen," Gilder said. "It's such a relief to be back in the winner's circle. Shoot, I may go win another."

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

Final leader board

The winner ... Bob Gilder 198

AND SELECTED FOLLOWERS

Morris Hatalsky 202

Curtis Strange 203

D.A. Weibring 204

John Bland 205

Tom Watson 205

Gary McCord 206

Pete Oakley 207

Hajime Meshiai 207

Rick Rhoden 207

Bruce Fleisher 207

Complete scores. 3D

Funk could be in next year's Constellation field. pg 3D

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