Quigley's final-round 67 good enough for 2-stroke win

Updated: February 3, 2003, 12:43 AM ET
Associated Press

KAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii -- Dana Quigley's idea of an offseason is playing fewer than 36 holes a day.

That's why he looked as if he was in midseason form Sunday in posting a two-stroke victory over Larry Nelson in the season-opening MasterCard Championship.

''My season never ends,'' said Quigley, who shot a closing 5-under-par 67 in his 202nd consecutive start on the Champions Tour. ''My friends think I'm crazy, but this is my life. My passion for golf, you cannot believe it.''

Quigley, who birdied two of the last three holes, finished at 18-under-par 198 at Hualalai Golf Club to capture his eighth career victory worth $250,000, the biggest check of his career. The 55-year-old former club pro has won two of his last three starts dating back to last year.

''I kind of played like I hadn't played all winter,'' said Nelson, who shared the second-round lead with Quigley and Fuzzy Zoeller. ''But Dana played well; it's a good start for him. I guess it's not a start for him, though, it's just a continuation of last year.''

Nelson, who won here in 2001 but went winless last year, weathered an up-and-down round to put himself in position to force a playoff. In a four-hole stretch starting at the par-5 seventh, he went eagle, bogey, double-bogey, eagle. Nelson also bogeyed 12 to fall back into a tie, but he rebounded with birdie putts of 20 and 35 feet at 16 and 17 to regain a share of the lead.

Quigley responded with a hard 60-degree sand wedge from 106 yards that stopped 14 inches from the hole to re-establish the lead.

Nelson hit the fairway at 18, but his ball came to rest near a sprinkler head. Standing partially in the depression from the sprinkler, he pulled his wedge from 109 yards left of the green. He blasted out and two-putted for 69 and a 200 total.

''I had a decent stance, but it's hard to hit those finesse standing in a hole,'' Nelson said.

Quigley, Nelson, and Zoeller began the day tied for the lead and the three jockeyed for position throughout the day until Quigley took the lead for good at the par-5 14th hole with a 3-foot birdie putt. He also birdied No. 16 from 5 feet.

Zoeller led by two strokes at the turn thanks to an eagle at the par-5 seventh, but bogeys at 11 and 14 took him out of the running. He ended up at 70-201.

Quigley said he rarely took a day off in the offseason, and in one 18-day stretch around Christmas played no fewer than 36 holes a day with his son, Devon. One day he played 73 holes.

''Every part of my game is clicking,'' Quigley said. ''I'm putting better than ever. I'm dedicating myself this season to becoming one of the best putters out here. I felt when I came out here I'd be ready to play, and I was.''

Tom Watson closed with a 67 to tie for fourth with Stewart Ginn (69) at 203.

Defending champion Tom Kite shot 70 to tie for 11th at 206 with four others, including Jack Nicklaus, the course designer, who shot 66, his lowest round since the 1996 Tradition.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press