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Cejka joins ‘greats’ as Senior Open champion
On a day in which the field faced howling wind and rain, Alex Cejka was the last man standing as he defeated Padraig Harrington on the second play-off hole to win Europe’s only Senior Major Championship.
The German appeared set to clinch victory on the Welsh coastline when he led by two shots with three holes to play but back-to-back bogeys at the 16th and 17th, coupled with a closing birdie by the Irishman led to extra holes.
Both players made birdie when they returned to play the 18th for the first time, before Cejka ended the suspense with a two-putt birdie on their second trip to the hole. It is a third Senior Major Championship for the 52-year-old, who previously won the Regions Tradition and KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s been a really tough week. It’s been a really tough two days. I can’t believe I’m standing with the trophy here. Seeing all those great names on the trophy, coming in here with all the pictures and everything, all the guys who won it before me, now holding it myself, it’s surreal.”
So close for Harrington
For the second year running, Padraig Harrington was forced to settle for a runner-up finish at the Senior Open. Twelve months on from finishing second to Darren Clarke, he came up agonisingly close again to adding his name to an elite group of players to have won both The Open and Senior Open. Bidding to join Bob Charles, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Clarke, Harrington put up a fierce challenge as he recovered from dropping four shots in as many holes at the start of his round to stick with final-round player partner Cejka until the end. Two fine blows into the heart of the 72nd green set up an eagle putt that would have won him the title in regulation play. He also came agonisingly close with an eagle putt from off the back of the green at the first play-off hole. At the end of three consecutive weeks of tournament golf, Harrington was left to reflect on the fine margins.
“I finished up this tournament tied and will I sit back and go, the first three days, I left half a half-dozen shots a day out on the golf course,” he said. “Not today [in the final round]. Today was brutally tough. It would have been nice to get a better start. Then we played nicely in the middle of the round, giving myself some decent chances for birdies.”
Elements cause havoc
As has been alluded to, conditions were punishing. Across both the third and final rounds, no player in the field managed to break par as the field faced strong winds and rain. It was the first time no player had produced an under-par round in the Senior Open since 2005, when Tom Watson triumphed at Royal Aberdeen. On Sunday, the joint low round of the day was a level-par 71 compiled by just two players. It made for compelling viewing with two-time Major winner and Ryder Cup star Justin Thomas voicing on social media how we was enjoying the “absolute carnage” that the field were facing.
Singh recalls sleeping under Eiffel Tower before first experience of links golf as a teen
On his second Senior Open appearance, Jeev Milkha Singh finished in a tie for 14th but it was his story behind his history with Royal Porthcawl that was particularly noteworthy. As a 15-year-old, he played the British Amateur qualifying at Royal Porthcawl. But the journey to Wales from Paris, where he had been playing in another tournament, was a challenging one as he and two other Indian golfers required help to be issued with a visa.
“We didn’t have money,” he recalled. “We spent three nights on the streets of Paris, sleeping on the train, sleeping under the Eiffel Tower. “We finally got here and I played my first practice round on a beautiful day with no wind. I told myself that Links golf was the easiest. And the next day when the rain and the wind came, I said ‘how do they play golf in this weather’”. Well, it’s hard to imagine the conditions could have been any worse to what he faced in Sunday’s final round.
Kemp finishes leading amateur
England’s John Kemp finished as the low amateur, bookending his week with rounds of 74 to finish in a tie for 14th on 12 over in his third start. It was his third appearance at the Senior Open with some fine moments to remember along the way, including this approach shot during the second round to set up a tap-in birdie.
Best shot of the week?
Despite the horrific weather, there will still a host of great shots across the week. From an amazing ace, fine recovery play, short game wizardy and putts holed from off the green, there was a bit of everything on show. Take your pick from the shortlist below.