Lietzke wins first title of 2003 with final-round 71
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Bruce Lietzke overcame the frustration of a number of missed birdie putts Sunday to win the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf for his first Champions Tour victory of the season.
Lietzke made par on the last 10 holes in a round of 1-under-par 71, finishing at 10-under 206, one stroke ahead of Dana Quigley (71) and David Eger (67).
Bob Gilder (69) and Hubert Green (71) tied for fourth at 8-under 208 in the first big-time tournament played in the Savannah area.
The Legends, which spawned the senior circuit in 1978, was played in four different cities and on eight different courses before moving to The Club at Savannah Harbor this year.
Lietzke, who began his career playing mini-tour events at the old Savannah Inn and Country Club on nearby Wilmington Island in 1974, earned $350,000 for the win, the largest paycheck of his career. The win was his sixth on the over-50 circuit.
Lietzke couldn't capitalize on a fast start Sunday. He birdied the first hole to get to 10 under, but dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-3 third.
''I had the lead and I birdied the first hole,'' Lietzke said. ''I really should have been able to stretch that lead out, and I just couldn't do it.''
Putting was the reason Lietzke wasn't able to extend his lead. He missed just one green in the final round -- the third -- but never made a putt from beyond 10 feet. He was left watching as his ball would either burn the lip of the cup or stop a turn short.
''I was pretty disappointed in that,'' he said. ''But, I'm real happy to be the 2003 champion.''
That said, Lietzke promptly announced that he likely won't defend the title in 2004. Lietzke said he wants to play with Bill Rogers in the Legends' team event next year.
The Legends was strictly a team competition until last year. Players in the two-man, better-ball competition now play for unofficial money.
Quigley, who won the season-opening MasterCard Championship and tied for fifth in the Emerald Coast Classic last week, seemed to be the most likely to catch Lietzke.
Quigley hit 9-iron to within 12 feet at No. 15 and made the birdie putt to get to 9 under, one shot off the lead.
But Quigley, too, couldn't coax in any birdies down the stretch.
''It was something where guys had to make a move, and none of us did,'' Quigley said. ''Bruce did just what he had to do.''
Quigley's earned 188 points toward the Charles Schwab Cup, and moved into first place with 786 points in the season-long race for the $1 million annuity.
Gil Morgan didn't earn any points, but maintained second place with 717 points. Lietzke earned 350 points and moved into third place with 593 points.
Arnold Palmer shot his age for the second time this year, firing a 1-over 73 in the first round. Palmer also shot 73 in the first round of the season-opening MasterCard Championship in Hawaii. ... Bob Charles was playing his first tournament of the season. Charles injured his elbow last fall at the SAS Championship and re-injured it at the New Zealand Open in December. ... Eger made only one bogey in the tournament and none over his final 39 holes.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press