BETHLEHEM, Pa. Put Hale Irwin in a United States golf championship and special things happen. His success rate is uncanny. Senior Open at Saucon Valley with a second consecutive

6 under 65 and waltzed away with yet another expensive piece of United States Golf Association hardware.

Irwin, at age 55, finished the championship at 17 under par, outdueling and outclassing the less experienced Bruce Fleisher in the final group. Fleisher, who entered the day leading Irwin by two shots, finished second at 14 under after shooting a 1 under 70. Irwin 17 under 267 is the lowest in tournament history, surpassing nike uk Gary Player 270 in 1987.

career has been defined by USGA championships, Irwin said afterward. Opens and now two Senior Opens have been so very much a part of my life. If there is a tournament to win on the Senior Tour this is it for me.

think in these events, the game is featured more than the players are featured and that important, Irwin added. is what I like to get myself ready to play the more difficult golf course setups. I think my game rises to that level. Unfortunately for Fleisher, a mere one time winner on a PGA Tour career that fell well short of high expectations but who stormed onto the Senior Tour with 10 victories since the beginning of last year, his rookie season, his game didn rise when things got critical.

It was a deeply disappointing finish for Fleisher, but he sounded as if he was almost resigned to losing to the accomplishe nike uk d Irwin before the round even began.

Saturday, not more than a half hour removed from his third round, Fleisher spoke reverently of Irwin as if he were the final round favorite even though it was Fleisher who brought the two shot lead to the course.

In sports psychology terms, what Fleisher experienced is called self actualization. Everything he spoke about Saturday, played itself out yesterday as if he talked himself into it.

Irwin loves this position, Fleisher said. been i nike uk n this position a hell of a lot more than I have. In fact, I can even remember the last time I have been in this position. In fact, I don think I was ever in this position. That was a big advantage for Irwin. tee time approached.

be honest with you, I was uncomfortable out there, Fleisher conceded. I told you I had a good night sleep [Saturday]night I be lying to you. Meanwhile, Irwin, winner of five Senior Tour majors entering the day, looked cool and calm.

nothing out there comparable to experience, Irwin said. can weigh it, put it on a gram scale. You can measure it. You don train for it, don practice it. You don go buy some at the store. It immeasurable, a quantity hard to define. The only way you get experience is to be there and make mistakes.

used my experience and Bruce probably learned a lot. Opens, the $400,000 first place check was the largest payday of his brilliant career.

The championship completely turned on the first hole, where Irwin birdied and Fleisher bogeyed, immediately erasing Fleisher two shot lead.

Fleisher, with nike uk 270 yards to the hole on the par 5 first, tried to apply immediate pressure by attempting to reach in two with a 3 wood to the green.

Irwin, admitting he was said later he couldn believe his eyes.

Fleisher pushed the 3 wood into the right rough, where he was blocked by overhanging trees from trying for the green and had to scuffle for a bogey 6 while Irwin birdied. And so, after only one hole, Fleisher and Irwin were tied at 12 under and the game was on.

Fleisher, though angry at himself for his blunder on No. 1, refused to say that he blew the championship.