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Craig Stadler wins Champions Tour stop in Glenview

Updated: July 25, 2013 6:44AM

The 18th hole had given several golfers fits. And when leader Craig Stadler pushed his approach into the right bunker, it looked as though he might be headed for a bogey and a playoff with Fred Couples.

But the man known as ‘‘the Walrus’’ got up and down, calmly sinking a 12-foot par putt Sunday to win the inaugural Encompass Championship by one stroke at North Shore Country Club in Glenview.

‘‘It looked real [similar] to a putt I made a billion years ago on 18 at
Akron,’’ Stadler said, recalling his putt that beat Corey Pavin by a stroke to win the World Series of Golf on Aug. 30, 1992. ‘‘Kind of left to right, kind of drifted in the low side. I said to myself: ‘I made that one, make this one. What the heck.’ ’’

Stadler, 60, shot a 1-under-par 71 in the final round and finished at 13-under 203 to edge Couples, who was a stroke back after closing with a 6-under 66. Seven players tied for third at 11 under.

‘‘It’s nice to see Stads playing so well,’’ Couples said. ‘‘He’s making a ton of birdies.’’

It was the first Champions Tour event in the Chicago area since 2002, and it was Stadler’s first victory since he finished a seven-vic-
tory run on the tour in 2003-04.

Aided by a hot putter and sharp short irons, Stadler birdied four of his first six holes to open a five-stroke lead. But he had to hang on after bogeying the ninth, 12th, 14th and 15th and missing a short birdie putt on the par-5 16th. A good two-putt on the par-3 17th and his clutch up-and-down from the sand on the 18th preserved the victory.

‘‘I missed a lot of [putts] on the back [nine], but I made the one at the end,’’ said Stadler, whose wife, Jan, gave him a big victory hug. ‘‘Her whole family’s here — probably 10 of them — so it’s very special. We’ve been married three years and this is the first win with her, so it’s pretty good.’’

Meanwhile, Couples was left shaking his head after failing to get up and down from the same bunker.

‘‘I just kind of shanked it,’’ Couples said of the 9-iron approach he hit into the green. ‘‘It was a bad shot, a pretty simple shot. I played most of them well today. That wasn’t very good.’’

Couples birdied seven of his first 14 holes but missed some chances from there, including a nine-foot par putt on the 18th after a disappointing sand shot from an uphill lie.

‘‘I just hit it too soft,’’ Couples said. ‘‘I didn’t get it up and down there. That was critical. Par, par, bogey. That’s not how you want to finish when you’re behind.’’

Jeff Sluman, who was in the third-place logjam, was among the many players who applauded Stadler, who shot 67 and 65 the first two days.

‘‘Craig made a few bogeys down the stretch, but he clearly was the class of the field,’’ Sluman said. ‘‘To see him make that putt, I couldn’t be happier for him. You’ve got a great champion.’’

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