By John Manley
A new world opened to Christy O’Connor, Jr. when he turned 50 last summer — the world of the seniors tours. Older, competitive golfers who aren’t quite up to matching strokes with the young bucks of both the American and European tours play as if they’ve drank an elixir bottled by none other than Ponce de Leon himself. In last weekend’s Home Depot Invitational at the Tournament Players Club at Piper Glen in Charlotte, N.C., O’Connor made a run at the title with a Sunday-best round of seven-under-par 65, as his rivals began spraying their shots around and about in the closing holes. But when the final scores were tallied, O’Connor came up two strokes short.
Bruce Fleisher, another Senior Tour rookie, won for the third time in seven events with an 11-under 205. Jim Holtgrieve, also in his first year on this circuit, and Terry Dill shared second place at 206. O’Connor, at nine-under 207, tied for fourth place with DeWitt Weaver and Allen Doyle. Each man received a check for $59,200.
O’Connor opened with rounds of 72 and 70, leaving him tied for 15th place, six shots off the lead, as play commenced on Sunday. Four birdies over the front nine drew him into contention. A putt for eagle on 18 that would have given O’Connor a share of the lead appeared to have potential nearing the hole, but skipped on by, leaving him to knock it in for birdie and hope that his rivals would come back to him.
"I saw it go over the hill, perfect for the second break," O’Connor said of his putt for eagle that was a double breaker. "Five feet out, I thought it was dead in the middle of the hole."
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Paul McGinley tied for second place in the Spanish Open at Real Club de Golf "El Prat" in Barcelona, his second good showing in as many weeks. There was no catching Sweden’s Jarmo Sandelin, but McGinley gave chase throughout and would have had the runner-up spoils all to himself had he not bogeyed the par-three 17th hole.
McGinley shot 67, 68 and 66 over the first three rounds, placing him three shots behind Sandelin on Saturday evening. He began Sunday’s quest with a bogey on the par-four first hole, but got that back two holes later. After a bogey on number eight, he turned the corner one over for the round and then caught fire. He birdied each hole from 10 to 15, save for the 11th, which he bogeyed. He finished the day with a 70, and was 17-under for the tournament at 271.