It was one of the wildest days in Emirates Australian Open history. And out of the maelstrom and the dust clouds came jaunty, little Peter Senior to write his own little chunk of history.
It was virtually dark at 7.30pm when the 53-year-old Senior tapped in for a par at the last hole, waved his cap to the few stragglers still left at The Lakes, and went to sign for an even-par 72 and a four-under-par total.
England’s Justin Rose remained on the course, two shots back, but until Rose played his tee shot at the 18th, Senior could not celebrate.
Rose could not bridge the gap, signing for a 76. Senior, with his son Mitch carrying his bag, had replaced the legendary Peter Thomson (who won the Open at 43 years of age in 1972) as the oldest winner in the tournament’s 100-plus years.
Senior’s two Australian Open wins – he also won at Kingston Heath in 1989 – came 23 years apart, another record. He is the oldest winner of any top-level Australian tour event, having set the previous record himself when he won the Australian PGA at Coolum in 2010 at 51.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,’’ said Senior, a profoundly popular figure in the Australian golf industry over three decades.
He paid tribute to his son, who has carried the bag on the Champions Tour in the United States including two playoff losses. “We finally did it mate,’’ he said. “Mitch’s one percent (cut) is looking pretty good.’’
Senior was emotional, sharing the win with his wife June. “I thought the days were over of giving speeches ... but I’ve got one left in me.’’
Senior beat Canberra’s Brendan Jones (71 for three-under overall) by a shot, the latter having posted a score and waited an hour in the hope that it would be sufficient. But Senior was immovable, taking the lead at the 10th hole when he rolled in a birdie, and carding six straight pars to finish. He made just two bogeys all day in appalling conditions, and had just 24 putts.
Cameron Percy of Victoria (two-under) finished third and in fact, more than a dozen players had a shot at the Stonehaven Cup on the final day. Rose, Kim Felton and Kieran Pratt tied for fourth, and all were in the running at different stages.
It was a remarkable day that included a three-hour delay because of some of the wildest winds seen at an Open.
The wind gusted up to 80km/h near lunchtime when tournament director Trevor Herden had to suspend play because of the danger to spectators and players. Around that time a steel television tower behind the 18th green tumbled down, fortunately not hurting anyone.
Three hours later they were able to resume but the wind was still howling at around 50km/h, making it virtually impossible to control the golf ball.
Felton, who played superbly for a 72 that momentarily made him clubhouse leader, called it “the hardest I’ve played in’’. Players ran up big numbers; Geoff Ogilvy, the 2010 Open champion, ran up five consecutive bogeys and carded 77, the same score as last year’s winner, Greg Chalmers. The tournament favourite Adam Scott carded a 76, finishing equal-14th.
Twenty-seven players began the final round under par. By day’s end, only six were in red figures. The carnage was no more stark than in the face of John Senden, the third-round leader. Senden hit his second shot of the day into the lake and slumped to an 82, tumbling into a tie for 18th. The Queenslander also led the Open into the final round last year and was reeled in.
The average score climbed above 76, with Tom Watson’s 69 easily the low round. The 63-year-old Watson had the advantage of starting early, before the big winds came, but it was a reminder of his greatness.