2004: Zoeller strong down stretch in opener

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Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii

The start of the 2004 Champions Tour had quite a Fuzzy finish.

Fuzzy Zoeller birdied the last three holes of the season-opening MasterCard Championship Jan. 25 – including an 18-foot putt for victory on the final hole – to earn a one-stroke victory over 2003 MasterCard winner Dana Quigley.

Zoeller (64) and Quigley (65) had jockeyed for position throughout the final day with Craig Stadler (63) and second-round leader Doug Tewell (69) until Quigley and Zoeller each made birdie on No. 17 to go up by a stroke.

Quigley’s approach shot on the 410-yard 18th found the left bunker, and Zoeller, 52, put his on the green. Although Quigley got up and down for par, Zoeller rolled in his putt for the victory – his second on the Champions Tour – and the $268,000 top prize.

“I was thinking birdie the whole time when I stepped on the tee,” he said. “It was a great week of golf. I wish I could pinpoint one thing that I did great and one thing I did bad, but it seemed the whole week just jelled.”

Zoeller won a major, the 2002 Senior PGA Championship, in his rookie season on the Champions Tour, but never finished better than third in 2003. Still, he disputes the fact that last year was a winless season.

“I win everyday I’m out there,” Zoeller said. “I’ve had three back surgeries and I’m still walking and I’m still playing the game.”

Stadler’s 9-under round included an eagle and seven birdies to tie the tournament record. He tied for third with Tewell at 198.

Tewell had overcome kidney stones and a 23-hole day on Saturday for a bogey-free, 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead into the final round.

“Had a little kidney stone attack at 3 in the morning,” he said. “Got to see the sun come up. I guess that’s what you go through in our age group.”

Tewell could never get anything going on Sunday, however, making bogeys on Nos. 9 and 13 – his first two of the tournament – to offset his five birdies. Zoeller bogeyed the par-4 second but then strung together five consecutive birdies to tie Tewell for the lead. Zoeller took the lead for the first time with a birdie on the par-5 10th.

– Staff and wire reports

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