After the pain went away, Ray Floyd realized he could still play.
At long last.
Floyd, who hadn't won in four years, birdied three of the last four holes to win his second Senior Players Championship title by one stroke when Dana Quigley bogeyed the last hole Sunday.
"It's been four years, so this is very special," said Floyd, 57, whose last win came in this championship in 1996. "It's a major, so when I sit back and think about this, it's going to be tremendously satisfying."
Floyd, who started the day at 9 under, six off the pace, shot a 6-under-par 66 for a 15-under 273 total.
Quigley, who has never won a major championship, shot a 71 to tie for second with Larry Nelson. Nelson had a round of 67 despite playing the last seven holes without a putter.
Tom Kite, seeking his third win and second major of his first season on the senior circuit, took a two-stroke lead over Quigley into the final round, but shot himself out of contention with a final-round 76.
Floyd, who has been bothered by back and neck injuries, got healthy late last year after changing his exercise routine.
"I always felt I could win when I'm feeling good," said Floyd, the 16th different winner on the Senior PGA Tour this season. "But when I'm hitting the ball all over the lot, I can tell you I'm not going to win.
"When I quit hurting, I started playing well again."
Floyd's 20-foot birdie putt up a ridge at No. 18 got him to 15 under and pulled him into a tie with Quigley, playing in the final threesome of the day, one group behind Floyd's group.
Quigley, who spend 13 years as a club pro in Rehoboth, Mass., before joining the senior tour, needed only to par the final hole to force a playoff.
But he pulled his tee shot left, down the bank guarding some marshland. Quigley, who strained his left leg slashing the ball out, left his approach short of the green and ended up two-putting from 25 feet for bogey.
"I started getting a little quick," Quigley said. "I think I was chocking a little bit, feeling the pressure."
When Quigley's putt to save par curled right of the hole, Floyd
watching from nearby got a champion's hug from his wife, Maria.
Fr most of the day, the battle seemed to be between Quigley and Kite.
With Kite making some uncommon mistakes, Quigley made a three stroke swing on the front nine, going from three strokes behind to one ahead at the turn.
Kite looked like he might be getting things together when he birdied No. 11 to even the match at 15 under. But he hit his tee shot into the water at the 12th, failed to get his approach on the green after a drop, and made double-bogey to fall into a tie with the hard-charging Nelson at 13 under, two back of Quigley.
Floyd, playing in the threesome with Nelson in the group just ahead of Kite and Quigley, joined the hunt with birdies at No. 11 and 12 to go 13 under, too.
Kite birdied the par-5 13th from 4 feet and closed within one shot of the lead as Quigley found a greenside bunker with his approach and settled for par.
But, again, Kite's swing let him down.
His approach to No. 14, the signature hole at the TPC of Michigan, landed in some thick brush on the face of the bluff along the long marsh fronting the green. Kite's third shot hardly moved and he finally made a left-handed swing to get the ball on the green where he two-putted for double-bogey to drop three strokes off the pace at 12 under.
"Tom was not as good as he was yesterday," Quigley said. "Of course, I wasn't either, so I guess that's to be expected."
Quigley, in fact, bogeyed the hole and now led by just one over Irwin and Floyd. Irwin birdied the 16th to get to 13 under but his charge ended with pars on the last two holes.
A 10-foot birdie at the par 3 15th got Quigley back to 15 under, however, restoring his two-stroke edge.
But only briefly as Floyd birdied No. 16 to get to 14 under.
"That's a situation where you know you've can't make a mistake," Floyd said. "You've got to birdie three of the last four."
Nelson, meanwhile, putting with a 3-iron after bending his putter after missing a putt at No. 11, eagled the par-5 17th from 15 feet to jump into a tie with Floyd at 14 under, one back of Quigley. But a par at the home hole ended Nelson's comeback.
Nelson said he didn't intend to damage his putter, although he was aggravated after making a poor putt.
"I made a birdie and an eagle with my 3-iron coming in," Nelson said. "If I had not hit a bad chip on the 15th, I would have shot 3-under with my 3-iron."
Kite's tumble continued with a bogey at No. 16 to fall hopelessly out of contention at 11 under. His second shot on No. 17 was short and in the water for another bogey.
Floyd, who has won four major championships on the senior circuit to go along with his four majors on the regular PGA Tour, is the third two-time winner of the Senior Players Championship, joining Arnold Palmr and Dave Stockton.
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