Originally created 11/09/99

Senior PGA Tour will get bigger and better



MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Larry Nelson doesn't usually listen to Gary McCord, especially when the irreverent analyst knocks his own golf game.

"He's a very colorful character," said Nelson, who finished a stroke behind as McCord won the Senior Tour Championship on Sunday. "But he's also very serious about his game. You can't shoot the scores he shoots without being serious."

McCord, who's found fame in the TV booth for CBS, in the movies in "Tin Cup," and on the best-seller list with "Golf for Dummies," found it where he loves it most, as a champion golfer.

"I have been blessed with a lot of success," said McCord, who never won in 25 seasons on the PGA Tour. "And for a guy that never had any success, you know, it gets to be overpowering."

Especially after the first two rounds, when McCord joked and hacked his way around The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, the place he and Nelson earned their tour cards in 1974. The wonderful comeback began Saturday with a 64, the tournament's low round, and continued with his 67 Sunday. He finished 12-under 276, a shot ahead of Nelson and Bruce Fleisher, the tour's top money winner with more than $2.5 million this season.

Fleisher, who has won seven times this year, looked ready to assume control as he took the lead with a birdie on the 13th hole. But he lost the lead by missing two short par putts -- the kind he had easily canned all season -- on the 16th and 17th holes.

"Whoa," McCord thought of Fleisher's errors. "It's amazing my bowels didn't open up." Suddenly, all McCord had to do was roll in a tricky 3 1/2 -foot par putt on the 18th hole for the second -- and biggest -- victory of his career.

"Great story," said Fleisher, not a bad one himself in his rookie season. "I mean, (McCord) has played half the tournaments I have this season. Kind of glad of that."

McCord showed that personality can play on the Senior PGA Tour, playing his final 36 holes in 13-under par. He earned $347,000 and finished the year with $993,291, about $300,000 more than he made in 25 seasons on the PGA Tour.

"This whole week has been such a Dow Jones ride," he said. "On Thursday and Friday, I didn't know what to expect. Then that last 36, I don't know if I could have played much better."

Nelson fired a 65 after starting six shots behind the leaders. Bruce Summerhays, who shared the third-round lead with Fleisher, was next at 8-under after a 74, while 60-year-old George Archer and Dana Quigley tied for fifth at 7-under.

McCord thought Saturday he would never get to 13-under, the number he thought it would take to catch Fleisher, so he calmly worked through his round.

His second birdie on No. 6, a 12-footer that went straight on line into the cup, got his juices flowing. "I started feeling pretty good then," he said.

He tied Fleisher with a 45-foot putt for birdie on the 10th hole and took the lead with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 17.

By then Fleisher had missed a 3-foot par putt on the 16th hole and a 6-footer for par on No. 17.

"I basically fell asleep," he said. "That's what makes horse races."

Nelson quietly moved into contention with four birdies through the first 10 holes. Birdies on the 14th, 16th and 18th holes got him thinking about a playoff, but said he simply ran out of time to a player who doesn't have enough of it.

McCord's working on a movie script about gambler Titanic Thompson and a sitcom about a Reed Farce, a 48-year old golfer about ready for the senior tour. He's supposed to play in next week's Senior Match Play Challenge, but is broadcasting Greg Norman's tournament for CBS.

McCord knows what he'll remember the most about this year.

"All those other things are nice, but they involve other people," McCord said. "Out here, this is your canvas. It's all yours."

Divots: Talk about an up and down round. Gil Morgan, the 1997 Senior Tour Championship winner, closed with an even-par 72 that he accomplished with four bogeys and two eagles. ... Dave Eichelberger, the last to arrive at The Dunes Club, was also the last to finish at 7-over par in the 31-man field.. Eichelberger laid out about $2,000 for an 11-hour limo ride Wednesday from New York's LaGuardia Airport when a storm delayed his flight. He made it to the course with about a minute to spare until his pro-am tee time. ... PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says the Senior PGA Tour's total purse will grow from $49 million to more than $53 million.