NAPLES, Fla. -- Vicente Fernandez shot a 4-under-par 68 in
strong wind Sunday and won the ACE Group Classic by three strokes,
his first victory on the Champions Tour since 1999.
The 56-year-old Argentine sank a 61-foot putt to finish the
three rounds in 14-under 202. He didn't make a bogey for the final
53 holes of the tournament.
''It was one of the best rounds I've played under these
circumstances from tee to green in these weather conditions,'' said
Fernandez, who earned a prize of $240,000.
Tour rookie Des Smith (66) and Tom Watson (69) shared second
place in the $1.6 million tournament at The Club at TwinEagles.
Watson, the 2002 runner-up, hasn't won professionally in 84 tries
Jack Nicklaus completed his first full-field Champions Tour
event since last April, shooting a 72 for a 3-over total to tie for
58th. Nicklaus, who tied for 11th at the MasterCard Championship
two weeks ago, will play in this week's Verizon Classic in Tampa.
''I just didn't play very well,'' the 63-year-old golf great
said. ''A few shots were decent, but for the most part I just
wasn't very sharp.''
Fernandez's thoughts were with Brian Deasy, his caddie since
1997. Deasy has been undergoing chemotherapy for a tumor near his
spine and left Fernandez a voice mail Saturday night.
''He was inside me, in my thoughts,'' Fernandez said. ''That
just shows you that somebody upstairs always remembers when you
Fernandez spaced out birdies on Nos. 6, 10, 17 and 18. His
birdie on No. 6 gave him the lead and he extended it with a
3-footer on No. 10. Fernandez missed only one green and he was just
off that one. He hit two par-5s in two.
Fernandez' mother, Catilina, 87, brother-in-law, aunt and
longtime coach and best friend, Norberto Bartolone, all died last
year. That and Deasy's illness contributed to his worst year on the
tour. He finished out of the top 31 for the first time.
''That has been with me off the course,'' he said. ''I've tried
very hard not to put them on the course during my play because I'm
very emotional. ... Before I hit my last putt, I started thinking