Nelson Lights Up Match Play

A new cross-hand putting grip has straightened out Larry Nelson.

Nelson led virtually all the way in beating Tom Jenkins 3 and 2 in the Senior Match Play Challenge Sunday.

Nelson said the grip, which he used exclusively for the first time last week at the Senior Tour Championship in Myrtle Beach, S.C., has improved the rest of his game.

The grip takes the pressure off his right hand, which is affected by a neck injury he sustained years ago.

"All of a sudden, you don't have to be so precise with your irons," Nelson said. "Putting better makes the rest of everybody's game better. When you're putting badly, you get to the point where it doesn't matter how well you hit it, you're not going to make birdie anyway."

Nelson won two of the first four holes, including an eagle at the par-5, 525-yard No. 4, en route to a 3 and 2 win and the $240,000 first prize.

The victory at the 7,000-yard Dorado Hyatt East course was Nelson's third since joining the Senior PGA Tour in 1997. He has $1.8 million in winnings this year.

Nelson started with a birdie, then the two were briefly tied at No. 2 where he made bogey at the 230-yard par-3. But Jenkins bogeyed No. 3 and Nelson's eagle at No. 4 propelled him toward the victory.

"He's one of the better ball-strikers out here," Jenkins said. "When he's putting well, he's tough to beat."

Nelson beat Raymond Floyd in a one-hole playoff in the opening round, then defeated Dana Quigley and Bruce Fleisher to reach the championship match. Jenkins beat John Jacobs, Allen Doyle and Bruce Summerhays to make the final.

In the semifinals earlier Sunday, Nelson beat the tour's leading money winner, Fleisher, by firing a 66, which included five birdies and another eagle at No. 4. Fleisher, who shot a 68, trailed by one hole going to No. 18, missed a chance to tie by sliding a long birdie putt from just off the green long.

Jenkins and Summerhays went back and forth in their semifinal match before Summerhays bogeyed the final hole.

Though the 16-player tournament featured 12 of the tour's top 15 money winners, the marquee names lost early. Special invitees Jack Nicklaus, Floyd, David Graham and Al Geiberger all lost their opening matches.

Last year's tournament, not a official senior tour event, was the first time match play had been held on the tour since 1986.

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