Irwin's game finally takes flight

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 5, 2012 - 10:52 PM

Starting at 4 over and with little to play for, the three-time champion fashioned a 65 before the leaders teed off.

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Few were watching as Hale Irwin, the three-time winner of the 3M Championship, went out in style with a closing 65.

Photo: Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

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It turns out Hale Irwin still has some game left in the tank.

The three-time 3M Championship winner is in the midst of a trying year on the Champions Tour, with four top-25 finishes in 13 events.

He was among the first to tee off Sunday, following back-to-back 2-over-par 74s to start this year's 3M Championship.

"After Friday," Irwin joked, "I was looking for the airport."

He decided to stay. It was worth the wait.

Irwin, 67, fired a 7-under-par 65 in the final round at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, the first time in his career he has shot below his age. He's matched his age five times.

"So we got a history lesson today, huh?" said Irwin, a three-time U.S. Open champion. "Boy, there were some fireworks. It was a really good round. Found a few things with the putter."

His iron play wasn't too shabby, either.

Using a 6-iron, Irwin holed his second shot from 171 yards on the difficult par-4 ninth hole. It's the first eagle made on No. 9 since the tournament moved from Bunker Hills to the TPC course 12 years ago.

"It's a damn hard hole," said Irwin, who made double bogey there in Round 1 and bogey on Saturday. "It's kind of hard to pull the right club because the wind can carry you or push it down. Kind of a guess. I don't think any of the players are going to feel confident about the club selection."

He guessed right Sunday, and went on to birdie six consecutive holes on the back nine.

The run, which tied David Peoples' season-best streak on the Champions Tour and most ever in the 3M, included a 30-foot putt on No. 16. He also rolled in two putts from 15 feet.

A hiccup bogey on the 18th came after he plopped his second shot into the water, trying to play it safe.

"Go for the layup, and lay it up in the water," Irwin said. "That's a synopsis of my game right now. It's keeping those really good scores from emerging."

Irwin wrapped up his historic day just as the overnight leaders were set to tee off. A winner in the event in 1997, '99 and 2002, Irwin has finished in the top 10 only twice since his last victory in Minnesota.

His 17 consecutive starts are the most in the 20-year history of the event.

"Not many out at 7:40 a.m. watching, but I do kind of feel like a second cousin here," said Irwin, who designed the Jewel Golf Club layout in Lake City. "And why I keep coming back is the people."

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