EDMOND, Okla. – If Colin Montgomerie needed a spark as he
pursued Gene Sauers on a 100-degree day in the final round of the 35th U.S.
Senior Open at Oak Tree National, he received it on the 12th hole.
Montgomerie, who held the solo lead through the first two
rounds, only to stumble with a third-round 74, was the only player within striking
distance of Sauers as the holes began to dwindle on a steamy Oklahoma Sunday.
Then along came the bagpiper.
“I’ll tell you what, never mind the bagpipes – he was
dressed in a kilt, which is heavy material,” marveled Montgomerie, a native of
Glasgow. “And he played ‘Flower of Scotland’ as we were coming up the hole. It
was amazing to have that. I’m 5,000 miles from my home and to have him playing
was a thrill.”
For most of a 10-hole stretch, from the par-4 fifth through
the par-4 15th, the dogged Montgomerie trailed Sauers by one stroke. His
pursuit was finally rewarded when Sauers missed a 6-foot par putt on No. 16,
dropping him to 5 under and into a share of the lead with Monty. When Sauers
narrowly missed a birdie effort on the 72nd hole, the second three-hole
aggregate playoff in Senior Open history was assured.
Notebook: Perry has strong end to disappointing week
Sauers Falls Short, But With Perspective
Sauers and Montgomerie each bogeyed the first playoff hole,
No. 16, after they found the fairway bunker. Sauers bogeyed the par-3 17th
after again being bunkered off the tee, and Montgomerie made a comfortable
two-putt par. After both players missed the 18th green, Sauers seemed poised to
extend the playoff, with a 4-footer left for par while Monty was 16 feet away. However,
Monty ran in the putt for his first USGA championship after several hard-luck
“I’ve been close in these USGA championships a few times,”
said Montgomerie, 51. “I’ve lost in a playoff and been one shot behind a couple
of times and I had to wait till 50 to finally win one. To follow the PGA Senior
victory a month ago with the U.S. Senior Open is fantastic. I’m really on top
of the world right now.”
Montgomerie had a rough time on Saturday, when he hit only
six greens and fell four strokes behind Sauers, and one behind Bernhard Langer
and Scott Dunlap. But he served notice early on Sunday that he was back in the
“The 5-iron I hit at the second hole from 195 yards, I hit
it to 8 feet and holed it,” said Montgomerie. “That was important, for the
scoreboard to change so that the three guys ahead of me understood that OK,
Monty means business as well.”
While Montgomerie was climbing closer, Dunlap (41 on the
first nine) and Langer (41 on the inward nine) were slipping away, both
eventually ending with scores of 77, tied for ninth. Montgomerie and Sauers
both birdied the par-5 seventh to move to 5 and 6 under, respectively, and they
were still in that position nine holes later, when Sauers drove into the
fairway bunker on No. 16 for the first of what would be two times on the day.
Video: Sunday Recap
“I just underestimated the wind going left to right too much
there,” said Sauers. “Maybe I just didn’t put a good swing on it. I did the
same thing in the playoff. I had a fairly good chip, and I missed the putt low.
That probably was the turning point right there.”
Sauers hit a brilliant approach on the 72nd hole, but his 8-foot
birdie putt barely missed – “a hair’s breadth short of pace or else he would
have won,” said Monty – to set up the playoff and Montgomerie’s par-saving
winner on the same green, three holes later.
From his birdie on
No. 7 on Sunday, Montgomerie played the remaining 14 holes – including the
playoff – in 1 over par. He thought there were two keys to eventually drawing
even with Sauers.
“Really, 74 was a disappointing score [on Saturday], but I
played particularly badly and it could have gone to 76 or 77 very easily,” he
said. “Today, I knew how difficult the course would play and I was really very
patient. You saw me two-putt a lot of holes. I didn’t want to rush it by or do
Montgomerie has now won two majors since turning 50, after
narrowly missing out numerous times on the regular tour.
“You know, I waited 22 years to win over in America,” said
Montgomerie. “My first major was the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1992. I think
I’ve matured on the golf course. I’m more patient than I was. I think I felt
that in majors when I was contending that I had to play perfect golf, that I
had to go out and score 64 – and you don't. Pars are usually good enough,
especially in USGA events.”
Montgomerie could empathize with Sauers’ tough finish.
“To start with the lead – I’ve had it myself, and it’s not
easy,” said Montgomerie. “It’s tough, but all credit to him for persevering
through that illness.”
Montgomerie knows something about perseverance, and about
overcoming adversity, some of it brought on by his difficult relationship with
golf fans in U.S.
“Again, I’ve matured – I’ve realized that you need the fans
on your side,” he said. “There’s no point in fighting against a few thousand of
them out there. This week was a delight; the Oklahoma fans were superb.”
Particularly one fan in a traditional tartan kilt.
Ron Driscoll is the
editorial manager for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.