Sigel is 12th different winner in 12 Champions Tour events

Updated: May 20, 2003, 11:45 AM ET
Associated Press

PARKVILLE, Mo. -- Some special exercises helped his aching back. A few encouraging words from Tom Watson put him in just the right frame of mind.

Jay Sigel
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerJay Sigel tied the course record with his 7-under 65 on Sunday, and he needed every stroke.

Then Jay Sigel went out and tied the course record with a 7-under-par 65, including a birdie on No. 18, to beat Mike McCullough by a stroke in the Bayer Advantage Celebrity Pro-Am on Sunday.

''It's a real positive thing to be feeling good again,'' Sigel said.

The 59-year-old Sigel, who turned pro just 10 years ago, became the oldest player to win a Champions Tour event this year. It also was his first top-10 showing in 12 tournaments during a painful season.

Until this week, Sigel said, he ''hadn't been able to put one foot in front of the other.'' But the exercises he's been doing recently helped.

About an hour or so before he teed off Sunday, Sigel ran into Watson, who designed the 6,955-yard layout at the National Golf Club of Kansas City.

''I told him it was a great event,'' Sigel said. ''He told me, 'Well, go low.'''

''Tom and I are friends, and I thought that was a special, special occasion,'' Sigel said. ''He helped my frame of mind be a little more positive.''

Sigel finished at 11-under 205. McCullough shot a 66 to finish at 206, while Vicente Fernandez, who had a two-stroke lead entering the final round, shot a 69 to finish at 207.

Sigel's 9-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th helped him turn back McCullough, who had pulled into a tie with three straight birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 15.

Sigel's first-place check of $240,000 more than doubled his 2003 tour earnings.

''I'm 59 and Mike is 58 and Vicente is 57,'' said Sigel, who missed only five fairways in the three rounds. ''Maybe the older guys were just more patient with this golf course. The way the rough was, driving was very important.''

Sigel's second shot on the 577-yard par-5 18th found the bunker in front of the green. He got it out within nine feet, then sank the putt.

McCullough, playing one group behind Sigel, pulled his drive into the rough on the 18th. He hit his second shot within 103 yards from the pin, and left his third on the fringe. He then missed a 20-footer that would have given him a tie.

''I hit the ball just like I wanted to,'' he said of his approach on 18. ''But it got awfully high into the wind. It was right on line.''

McCullough's downfall was on the two holes that Watson had predicted would be the toughest -- Nos. 7 and 17, both long par 4s. McCullough's only par on either hole came Sunday on the 17th, when his errant drive hit a golf cart and bounced almost back onto the fairway.

''When you lose a golf tournament by one stroke but are 6 over par on two holes, that tells the story,'' he said.

Sigel birdied the first three holes on his way to a 5-under 31 on the front nine, while McCullough had a 4-under 32.

Sigel sank a 3-foot par putt after sending his approach into a bunker on No. 11, then took a two-shot lead over McCullough with a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 12. Another short birdie putt on No. 13 made him 9 under for the day and put him four strokes ahead when McCullough bogeyed the 12th.

But McCullough came back with three straight birdies and moved into a tie when Sigel had an unplayable lie on No. 15 and got his only bogey of the day.

Sigel's last win was in Grand Rapids, Mich., in June. ... The 12 Champions Tour events have had 12 different winners. ... Hale Irwin, the tour's leading money winner, finished at 210, five strokes behind Sigel. ... Watson was never in contention in front of his hometown fans, shooting a 69 and finishing at 212. ... Hubert Green had a hole-in-one on the 131-yard par-3 14th. J.C. Snead also had a hole-in-one on the 197-yard fourth hole.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press