Champions Golf Tour
Allen wins major in Champions Tour debut



Beachwood, OH (Sports Network) - Michael Allen drilled his final drive 315 yards down the 18th fairway, then stuck his last approach shot to 12 feet.

"About freaking time!" he called out.

The 50-year-old from San Mateo, Calif., had a reason to be so effusive.

Winless in 334 PGA Tour stars, Allen won his Champions Tour debut by shooting a three-under 67 in the final round of the Senior PGA Championship on Sunday.

Clinging to a one-shot lead over Larry Mize through 17 holes, Allen turned his two uninhibited shots at No. 18 into a closing birdie and a two-shot win at six-under-par 274.

His first title in 11 years was also a major championship, the first of the season on the over-50 tour.

"It's been a great week," said Allen.

Mize, the 1987 Masters champion, coughed up the lead on the tough back nine at Canterbury Golf Club, also closing with a 67 to end at four-under 276. He watched as Allen clinched the win at 18.

"Two great shots. You gotta take your hat off to him," said the 50-year-old Mize, playing his first full season on the Champions Tour. "He played well."

Bruce Fleisher, an 18-time winner on the Champions Tour, joined Allen and Mize with a 67 in the final round and took third place at three-under 277. Tom Watson (66) was the only other survivor to par, ending at even-par 280.

Fred Funk (70), Jeff Sluman (73), Gil Morgan (72) and Chris Starkjohann (70) tied for fifth place at one-over 281.

Allen and Mize, after steady front nines, battled for the lead. Fleisher showed up late as a challenger, but the 60-year-old former U.S. Senior Open champion may simply have run out of holes against his younger competitors.

"Obviously 50 years old is a lot younger than 60," said Fleisher.

The final round was tight throughout.

Mize tied Allen for the lead with 15-foot birdie putts on the first two holes, then moved two shots ahead when he collected back-to-back birdies at the seventh and eighth. Allen climbed within a stroke when he rolled in a 20- footer for birdie at No. 9.

But neither player was going to win without playing well on Canterbury's back nine.

In Saturday's third round, Mize made an eagle, a birdie, three bogeys and a double-bogey on the demanding stretch of holes, while Allen had a trio of birdies.

Allen was better on Sunday, as well.

Mize hit two offline drives in two holes, the 11th and 12th. He saved par from a fairway bunker at 11 when he chipped to a foot, but made bogey from the rough at 12 to fall into a tie for the lead with Allen at four-under par.

That allowed Allen to take the lead with a five-foot birdie putt at the 12th.

Allen, however, gave the shot back when he missed a six-footer for par at No. 14 -- making his only bogey of the round and forging another tie for the lead with Mize at four-under.

Taking a long time over his shots towards the end of the round, Allen drained an eight-foot birdie putt at No. 15 to regain his one-shot lead.

Mize saved par from 15 feet at the 18th, placing all the pressure on Allen to make at least a closing par for the win.

Which is when Allen pulled driver on the last tee -- an unnecessary risk -- and unloaded his 315-yard blast down the fairway. As impressive was his gutsy approach to the green, taking the ball over a bunker and right at the hole.

"To hit a drive like that on 18 under the gun in awfully impressive," said Mize.

Allen, who turned 50 in January, had made 271 professional starts since winning the 1998 Greater Austin Open on the Nationwide Tour. He opted to play this tournament instead of the Byron Nelson Championship, the $6.5 million event on the PGA Tour this week, accepting a special invitation from the PGA of America to join the field.

It paid off.

Allen became the 14th player to win his Champions Tour debut, earning him $360,000 and a one-year exemption on the senior circuit. He is already fully- exempt on the PGA Tour, where he has made 9-of-12 cuts this season without posting a top-20 finish.

Short on experience in situations like the one he found himself in Sunday, Allen nevertheless appeared calm -- if meticulous -- as he found all but one fairway on the back nine.

Afterward, he smiled broadly on the 18th green, holding the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy in his hands.

"It's really heavy," Allen said.

Apparently, the pressure was not.

05/24 15:52:41 ET