Dick's Sporting Goods Open: Final-round notebook

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June 28, 2009
Phil Stambaugh, PGA TOUR Staff

Lonnie Nielsen used a hot start to overtake Fred Funk early on the front nine and then played solid golf on the back nine to cruise to a three-stroke victory over Ronnie Black and Funk. Nielsen started with a run of four birdies and an eagle, but it was his 20-foot birdie putt at the par-4 16th hole that gave him a two-stroke cushion over Funk. Funk had a final chance to creep closer to Nielsen but missed a three-foot birdie putt at No. 16. Nielsen added a closing 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to seal the win. The key to Nielsen's victory was his par-5 scoring average (4.08). He played the par-5s at En-Joie in 11-under-par for the week while Funk was just 6-under on them and Black was 9-under.

• One day before celebrating his 56th birthday, Lonnie Nielsen won his second Champions Tour event, the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, in his 145th career start. Nielsen's other Champions Tour victory also came in the state of New York, the 2007 Commerce Bank Championship on Long Island, and came just two days after his 54th birthday. Nielsen also played 124 PGA TOUR events and 14 tournaments on the Nationwide Tour without registering a win. A former club professional near Buffalo, Nielsen has claimed numerous other events in the state of New York, including nine Western New York PGA Section Championships. He also won the New York State Open in 1985 and 1989.

Top 54-hole scores
Year Event Score Eventual Finish
2009 Dicks Sporting Goods Open 195 (-21) 1st
2007 Commerce Bank Championship 199 (-14) 1st
2008 Commerce Bank Championship 202 (-11) T2nd
2007 Administaff Small Business Classic 202 (-14) T4th
2007 Toshiba Classic 202 (-11) T9th
2005 3M Championship 202 (-14) T2nd

Lonnie Nielsen's 21-under-par 195 total is not only a tournament record but also the lowest 54-hole score on the Champions Tour since R.W. Eaks shot 23-under 193 at last year's 3M Championship. Here's a list of Nielsen's best 54-hole scores of his Champions Tour career:

Lonnie Nielsen becomes the 11th different winner on the Champions Tour this year. His victory earned him a two-year exemption into the season-opening event, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in Hawaii.

Lonnie Nielsen's final-round 63 is the lowest finish by a winner this year. Nielsen's birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie start is the best birdie-eagle streak on the Champions Tour this year. Jim Colbert had a run of birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie earlier this season in the first round of the Toshiba Classic.

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Lonnie Nielsen earned a check for $247,500 and moved up to 15th in 2009 earnings with $516,895. He also earned 248 Charles Schwab Cup points in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup race and now is in 17th place in the current standings with 350 points. After 13 official events, Bernhard Langer leads the Schwab Cup race with1,162 points and Michael Allen is in second place with 720 points. Larry Mize earned 37 Schwab Cup points this week and remains in third place with 709 points. The Schwab Cup offers $2.1 million in tax-deferred annuity payouts to the five leading finishers, with the winner receiving a $1 million payout.

• It was a good week for Lonnie Nielsen's primary charity in 2009. At the start of the year, Nielsen, through the Iowa PGA Section, became a lead contributor to the GIVE (Golf For Injured Veterans Everywhere) Foundation. He's heading the "Birdies for Heroes Challenge" and is donating $50 for each birdie and $500 for each eagle this year. At the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, Nielsen made 24 birdies and an eagle to net the organization $1700. The GIVE Foundation is committed to supporting the mental, social, physical and emotional well-being of veterans.

• In his first appearance in Endicott since 2004, Fred Funk finished T2 at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, his fourth consecutive top-10 finish on the Champions Tour and his second runner-up effort in his last three events. Funk now has a run of 11 straight par/better rounds. In addition to his win at En-Joie in 1996, Funk was also second in 1999 and 2002.

Ronnie Black's T2 this week is his top performance ever on the Champions Tour. Last year at En-Joie, Black finish T7 in the Dick's Sporting Goods Open. It was Black's best effort on any Tour since finishing second at the 1989 Centel Classic on the PGA TOUR. The performance also earned Black a spot in the next Champions Tour event, the 3M Championship at the TPC Twin Cities in Minnesota in two weeks.

• Overall, the field average for this year's Dick's Sporting Goods Open was 70.429 (-1.571), the lowest of the year for a full-field 54-hole event. Last year's scoring average at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open was 70.732 (-1.268).

• This year's Dick's Sporting Goods Open yielded 913 birdies and 23 eagles. Last year's event at En-Joie yielded 936 birdies and 10 eagles

• This and That: Fred Funk led the field in Driving Accuracy, hitting 35 of 42 fairways...Brad Bryant led the field in Greens In Regulation, hitting 47 of 54 (87.04%)...Gary Hallberg averaged just 25.67 putts per round.

Craig Stadler withdrew before the start of the final round with a sore Achilles tendon.

• After a week off, the Champions Tour returns for its 14th official event of the season at the 3M Championship in Minnesota.

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