Gilder goes wire-to-wire for senior victory

Updated: September 18, 2005, 5:40 PM ET
Associated Press

HUNT VALLEY, Md. -- Bob Gilder had just plunked his tee shot into a pond, an inexplicable mistake that resulted in a double bogey that shaved his four-stroke lead to a single shot.

"I'm thinking, 'Uh oh. Don't be this stupid and throw this away,"' he said.

The errant shot turned out to be the lone flaw in an otherwise lovely Sunday afternoon for Gilder, who shot a 5-under-par 67 to capture the Constellation Energy Classic by four strokes over Morris Hatalsky.

It was Gilder's first victory on the Champions Tour in more than two years. He never trailed after opening with a 64 on Friday.

"Being away from winning for that long, if someone would have been challenging me right up to the end, I don't know how I would have reacted," he said. "Hopefully I would have felt OK."

Gilder built a three-shot lead with nine holes to play and coasted to the finish. He chipped in from 40 feet for par on No. 18 to finish at 18-under 198, tying the tournament record set by Christy O'Connor in 1999.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "I'd never have thought I could shoot that number on this course."

Gilder earned $255,000, more than half the sum he made over his first 22 tournaments this year. Before this weekend, he finished in the top 10 only twice in 2005. It was his eighth career victory on the Champions Tour, the first since the 2003 Emerald Coast Classic.

"I knew I could play well enough to win. I just wasn't doing it," he said. "It was a matter of getting back on my game, eliminating mistakes and making some putts."

His harrowing moment Sunday came on No. 3. Although the pin was back on the green some 183 yards away, Gilder came up embarrassingly short with his 7-iron and hit the water.

"I didn't make a mistake after that," he said.

Hatalsky pulled even with a birdie on the next hole, but Gilder played bogey-free golf the rest of the way. After Gilder birdied No. 11 to move four shots up, the only suspense was who would finish second.

"I was surprised no one made a move at me," he said.

Hatalsky shot a 69. His birdie on the 18th hole enabled him to break a tie with Curtis Strange and earn $149,600 for second place.

Strange shot a 69 for a 203 total to take third, his best finish since joining the tour this year. D.A. Weibring (71) came in fourth, one shot ahead of Tom Watson (71) and John Bland (68).

"D.A. and I never really put much pressure on Bob today," Hatalsky said. "I was surprised he had that hiccup on No. 3, but he bounced back right away. He didn't forget how to win."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press