Gilder shoots 65 to rally, defend Constellation title

Updated: September 17, 2006, 11:20 PM ET
Associated Press

HUNT VALLEY, Md. -- No one will miss the Constellation Energy Classic more than Bob Gilder.

Gilder shot a 7-under 65, the lowest round of the day on Sunday, to overcome a three-shot deficit and successfully defend his title, finishing two strokes ahead of Brad Bryant, Don Pooley and Jay Haas in the final year of the Champions Tour event.

Leaderboard
1. Gilder (-14)
T-2. Bryant (-12)
T-2. Haas (-12)
T-2. Pooley (-12)
T-5. Beck(-11)
T-5. Watson (-11)
• Complete scores
"Now we're leaving. He's going to go into mourning," Bryant said. "It's going to be terrible [for him]. It's like the Bob Gilder Annuity Fund here."

Next year, the Senior Players Championship comes to nearby Baltimore Country Club.

It was Gilder's ninth Champions Tour win, but only his second since 2003. Both have come at Hayfields Country Club, where he has never finished worse than 14th in five appearances. Perhaps he might consider petitioning the tour to stage another event at Hayfields?

"That probably wouldn't do any good," he said. "But we do have a great venue coming up next year. I'd sure like to win that one."

Gilder posted a seven-birdie, no-bogey final round to finish at 14 under. Bryant, seeking his third victory of the season, shot his third straight 68. Haas also carded a 68, and second-round leader Pooley settled for a 70. Chip Beck, playing in his first Champions Tour event, shot a 66 to tie Tom Watson for fifth at 11 under.

"Golly, for Bob to win two years in a row here," Bryant said, "he's got some kind of secret."

Apparently, the secret on Sunday was having absolutely no idea where he stood until his round was nearly over.

Gilder, who went wire-to-wire to win by four strokes here last year, moved into a six-way tie for the lead with a birdie on the ninth hole. He took the lead outright with a birdie at the 10th and used three more birdies to extend his lead to two strokes by the time he was walking down the 17th fairway.

He never glanced at the leaderboard during his charge, but on 17, he finally got curious.

"I asked my caddie, Harry [Brown], 'How far behind are we?"' Gilder recalled. "And he says, 'We're not.' It never dawned on me to look at the board. I was just focused on what I was doing.

"If I'd have been looking at the board, it probably would've been a different story. Sometimes it just bothers you when you see all those names up there."

Gilder began the day three strokes behind Pooley, one of 15 players within four shots of the lead. He moved into contention with birdies on the first two holes, then moved into a tie for the lead by sinking a 7-foot birdie putt at the ninth. He took the outright lead by making birdie at the 10th after hitting his 9-iron within 6 feet.

Playing flawlessly from tee to green, Gilder made three more birdies coming in, including a 14-footer on 12 and a 5-footer on 15. He two-putted for birdie after reaching the par-5 16th with a 3-wood to extend his lead to two strokes.

Bryant, who struggled with his putter throughout the final round, missed a short birdie putt on the 13th that could have tied him for the lead.

"I had so many chances the whole day," Bryant said. "This year I've really putted well. That's been why I'm third on the money list, because of my putting. Today, I just didn't quite putt as good. But, you know, when you shoot 68 you can't badmouth yourself."

Bryant and Pooley both came to the final hole needing eagles to force a playoff. But the 597-yard par-5 proved unreachable in two, thanks to heavy rain throughout the week. Neither hit his pitch shot close, and each settled for par to finish two behind.

Haas birdied the 18th to tie them and move to within $53,712 of leader Loren Roberts on the money list.

The 56-year-old Gilder, who pocketed $255,000 for the victory, joins Allen Doyle and Dana Quigley as the only players to successfully defend a title on the Champions Tour this year. It's the first time he's won in a title defense.

Gilder is the first player in the tournament's nine-year history to win twice, and he'll go down as the only player to do so. He earned nearly $600,000 in five appearances in the event since he became eligible for the Champions Tour, skipping it only in 2003.

"I have no idea why I didn't play [in 2003]," he admitted. "Shoot, I'm a senior now. That was three years ago."

He won't soon forget Hayfields, though.

"It's nice coming back to a golf course that you feel sets up well for you," he said. "It's a treat to win and to defend."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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