PEABODY, Mass. (AP) -- When the U.S. Senior Open was over, Bruce Fleisher slumped in a chair, relieved that he no longer has to struggle with the Salem Country Club's torturous pin placements on dome-shaped greens.
He grouched about the course's length -- 6,709 yards -- and the toll that the four rounds took on his 52-year-old legs. He called the rough "miserable." He said he didn't play all that well.
He could only imagine how the losers felt.
"Mentally, I was tired," Fleisher said Sunday after finishing 72 holes at even par and holding on as five one-time co-leaders bogeyed on their way back in. "I'm not pulling against anyone. You hate to see a finish like that. But I prevailed. I feel very fortunate, very lucky."
Playing the last two days in 90-degree heat interrupted by thunderstorms that delayed the third round and accelerated the fourth, Fleisher parred the last 12 holes to finish with a 2-under 68 and a 280 for the tournament that gave him a 1-stroke victory over Isao Aoki (73) and Gil Morgan (70). Jack Nicklaus, looking for his first victory since 1995, and Allen Doyle were another stroke back.
"I knew that par would be a good score," Fleisher said. "I thought that someone (else) would finish even and it would be a playoff. I'm glad it didn't happen, I've got to be honest with you. I didn't want to go back out there."
A year after losing the tournament to Hale Irwin, Fleisher joined Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as the only men to win the U.S. Amateur and the Senior Open. Fleisher won the Amateur in 1968.
"It's been a long time coming," said Fleisher, who won $430,000 -- by far the biggest check of his career.
Fleisher won exactly once on the PGA Tour and 13 times as a senior. But the closest he got to a major before was in last year's Senior Open, when he took a 2-stroke lead into the final round at Saucon Valley before Irwin shot a 6-under 65 to win by 3 strokes and post the lowest total -- 17 under -- in tournament history.
The two played in the same group on Sunday, both starting the final round at 2 over. Irwin birdied the first hole to move to 1 over and a stroke ahead of Fleisher.
"I said to myself, 'Oh, my God. Here we go again,"' Fleisher said.
Irwin lurked at 2 over before consecutive bogeys at Nos. 15, 16 and 17 left him with a 73 and at 5 over.
Six players were at even par or one stroke back on Sunday before hitting the 15th hole, a 223-yard par-3 that demonstrated why it was the hardest hole on the course by effectively eliminating Irwin, Nicklaus and Larry Nelson.
"That's what cost me the tournament. You can't do that coming in," said Nicklaus, who also bogeyed the 16th hole. "I kind of enjoyed being in the hunt. Standing on the 10th green, I turned around and I said, 'You know, I'm a little nervous.' I said, 'That's good. That's fun."'
Jim Colbert chipped in for birdie on the 15th to take a short-lived lead at 1 under, but he bogeyed No. 16 and double-bogeyed the 18th after he had already lost his chance to win. He finished with a 73 and was tied for fourth at 2 over with Nicklaus (70) and Doyle (69).
One of 14 players still on the course when the third round was suspended on Saturday, Aoki birdied the 18th hole to improve to 2 under and take a 1-stroke lead into the final round. He dropped to even by No. 17, when he fell off the lead with a bogey on No. 17, a 476-yard par 4, when he left his approach short and 2-putted.
Morgan was done in by the par-4 18th.
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