Stadler Gets First Victory Since 2004

Though it wasn't easy, Craig Stadler held himself together down the stretch, closing with a 1-under 71 to win the Encompass Championship at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill., by a stroke. The victory for the 60-year-old was his first on the over-50 circuit since the SAS Championship in September 2004.

Stadler managed to par the final three holes. After a great drive on the par-4 18th, he overcooked his approach and it ended up in a bunker behind the green. After splashing out to 12 feet, he sank the par putt to finish at 13-under 203, a stroke ahead of Fred Couples, who closed with a 6-under 66.

"I missed every putt on the back nine and finally made one that counted," an obviously relieved Stadler said at greenside.

Stadler's between-victory gap of eight years and nearly nine months is the longest stretch in Champions Tour history. J.C. Snead went almost seven years between titles from 1995 to 2002.

Sharing third at 11-under 205 were Kenny Perry (67), Mark O'Meara (68), Tom Lehman (69), Germany's Bernhard Langer (69), South Africa's David Frost (70) and Jeff Sluman (71).

Mark Calcavecchia (71) and Bob Tway (73) ended up in 10th at 205.

Stadler began the final round in the 54-hole event with a two-shot lead over Tway and local favorite Jeff Sluman. The player known as "the Walrus" shined on the front nine Sunday, carding four birdies in the first six holes before two pars and a bogey on the par-4 ninth to make the turn in 3-under 33.

But things got dicey on the home half. After a par and a birdie on the par-5 11th, Stadler bogeyed three of the next four holes to come back to the field. His closing stretch of three pars held up though, as none of the remaining players could come through when it counted most, giving Stadler, a 13-time winner on the PGA Tour and the 1982 Masters' champion, his ninth win on the Champions Tour.

Finishing a few holes before Stadler, Couples had the best chance to catch or overtake his good friend. But after carding seven birdies through 14 holes, the 53-year-old from Seattle parred Nos. 15-17 and bogeyed the last from the middle of the fairway when his wedge approach found a greenside bunker.

"I just kind of shanked it," Couples said of his second shot on the last hole. "It was really a bad swing on as easy a shot as you'll ever have."

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