Dramatic Dawson clinches Senior Open

American Marco Dawson produced a stunning back nine fightback to storm to victory in The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, overcoming European Ryder Cup legends Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie.

The 51 year old, whose best finish in 413 events on the US PGA Tour was runner up in the 1995 Greater Milwaukee Open, sank a dramatic and decisive 18ft birdie putt on the last hole for a round of 64 to finish one shot clear of defending champion Langer, who also closed with a 64, while Montgomerie was a further two shots back.

It proved to be a fascinating final round at Sunnigdale Golf Club, with Montgomerie seemingly in control for much of the afternoon following an impressive four under par front nine of 31.

The 2010 European Ryder Cup captain moved three shots clear of Dawson on the tenth hole after Dawson made his third bogey of the round immediately after the turn following an outward nine of 33, which included an eagle on the ninth.

But fortune swung in Dawson’s favour when Montgomerie made back-to-back bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes and the American birdied both holes.

That reignited his title bid and he moved to the top of the leaderboard in spectacular fashion courtesy of the second eagle of his round on the 14th hole, after Langer had previously moved serenely into pole position with five birdies in his opening 12 holes.

It then came down to a battle between those two over the closing holes, and Dawson’s long birdie putt on the last meant that when Langer holed his own ten foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, it was only to reduce the margin of victory to a single shot.

Langer, therefore, narrowly missed out on a record-equalling third Senior Open title, following his dominant 13 shot victory at Royal Porthcawl last year, but for Dawson it was an emotional maiden Senior Major Championship, after only capturing his first title on the US Champions Tour in March.

“This is unbelievable,” said Dawson, who finished 16 under par for the Championship. “I can’t tell you how many hours I put in on the range, and I’ve had two back surgeries to prove it. I’ve spent a lot of time on the range and on the putting green over the years, and you know, it’s a little later than most of the guys, but it came true.”

“I had a lot of fun last year. I wasn’t expecting a lot but things started to happen and I started getting more and more confident. And then I won earlier this year, which gave me a lot of confidence through the rest of the season, and when I got to this point two days ago, and I had a good first round and a good second, I thought, okay, maybe this is going to happen again. I said we’ll just keep on making the swings and try and make the putts. That’s what it comes down to. I just made one more putt than Bernhard.”

Dawson’s victory also means he qualifies for next year’s Open Championship at Royal Troon, which will be his first appearance in golf’s oldest Major.

“Isn’t that nice?” he said “So I’ll be here two weeks next year. Great. I love that. I love the way the game is played over here. I love that you can play it on the ground, in the air. There’s so many options, so many more options than we have in the States.

“Most of the play over there is in the air. Unfortunately it was wet this week. The first two days were very bouncy and you see a lot of balls run a lot. It’s a lot of fun playing golf like that.”

Langer continued his remarkable record in the Senior Open, finishing runner up for the second time after losing a play-off to Mark Wiebe in 2013, having finished no worse than 12th in eight appearances.

“It was an exciting week,” said the two-time Masters Champion. “It’s very befitting of the venue and the tournament. We had a great leaderboard, lots of good players up there, and a few lead changes as the day went by.

“Marco just played phenomenally. Things went for him; he holed a bunker shot and he made two eagles, and leapfrogged both Monty and I. And he made an amazing put on 18 to make sure I couldn’t tie him.

“The three of us were always fairly close together and it just came down to who plays the last, eight or ten holes the best, and Marco did that.”

Montgomerie birdied the 14th hole but could just not make any putts on the closing four holes to close the gap on Dawson, as his bid for a fourth Senior Major title ultimately ran out of steam. His round of 67 and 13 under par total meant he had to settle for third place, having finished a distant runner-up to Langer in Wales last year.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez produced some fireworks of his own with an eagle on the 14th hole, but like Montgomerie that was his final gain of the round and his closing round of 67 left him five shots back on 11 under par in fourth place.