Fleisher sets tourney-record win margin

Updated: May 2, 2004, 10:00 PM ET
Associated Press

HOOVER, Ala. -- Bruce Fleisher didn't let a delayed start or the sand slow him down at the Bruno's Memorial Classic.

After Sunday's final round was pushed back to the afternoon to allow the course to dry after overnight rain, Fleisher saved par at the ninth hole after hitting into a bunker and coasted to a seven-stroke victory. It was the largest winning margin in tournament history.

"That was the turning point of the whole tournament for me," Fleisher said of his scrambling par at No. 9. "If I miss that putt, I probably let a lot of guys back in the tournament."

Instead, he turned the tournament into a runaway victory, shooting a 4-under 68 to finish at 16-under 200.

Fleisher entered the final round with a four-stroke lead and shrugged off a late start.

"That's always difficult, especially when you're leading," Fleisher said. "It was not an easy morning for me."

He maintained the advantage through the first nine holes and then had three straight birdies over the final six holes.

D.A. Weibring and Bruce Lietzke tied for second at 9 under.

Defending champion Tom Jenkins fell from second to fourth after a double bogey on the final hole, when his tee shot hit a cart path and bounced out of bounds.

The previous biggest margin of victory at Bruno's was five strokes by Graham Marsh in 1995.

Fleisher is just the second player in tournament history to lead wire-to-wire, joining Hale Irwin, who was tied for the lead after the first round in 2001.

"He just obliterated the rest of us," said Irwin, who fell out of contention with a final-round 75.

Weibring was the only player to make a run at Fleisher, albeit briefly. He cut the lead to two strokes with a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 4. Fleisher birdied the next hole, Weibring sent his tee shot off a tree and into the woods, making a bogey at No. 8, and the lead was back to four.

"Bruce was playing aggressive when he had the right yardage with the right club," Weibring said. "He played smart. The golf course came to him today."

Fleisher said he wasn't comfortable until his final tee shot sailed down the middle of the fairway -- despite the big lead.

"Honest to God, so many crazy things happen in this game," Fleisher said. "I was very focused. There's some tough golf out there. No matter how good you're striking it, it can come up and bite you."

Fleisher had birdies at Nos. 13-15, breaking a string of seven straight pars with putts of 12, 20 and 8 feet. Weibring made bogey at No. 11 and Jenkins had a bogey at the 10th.

When the 20-footer went in, "That's when I knew the golf gods were in my favor," Fleisher said.

It was the 18th career victory, and second of the year for Fleisher, who won the Royal Caribbean Classic in February. The last time he won two tournaments in a season was in 2001.

"He didn't make many mistakes, and D.A. and I didn't really put any pressure on," Jenkins said. "He was on his game. He wasn't going to make any mistakes."

Lietzke had five birdies over the final nine holes and finished with a 67.

With 13 different winners in 13 years, Bruno's has the longest run on the Champions Tour without a two-time winner ... Fleisher is the tour's first multiple winner after nine events.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press