EDMOND — Winning a major was the only thing missing from Colin Montgomerie’s Hall of Fame career.
After defeating Gene Sauers in a three-hole playoff Sunday afternoon to capture the U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National, Montgomerie now has won back-to-back majors on the Champions Tour.
Sinking a 16-foot par putt on the third playoff hole, Montgomerie joined Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Hale Irwin and Roger Chapman as the only players to win the Senior PGA and U.S. Senior Open the same year.
“My first major was the U.S. Open in Pebble Beach in 1992,” Montgomerie said. “You wait 22 years to win in America. This is a great, great golf course. If anybody thinks these senior majors are easy to win, believe me, come out here and try it.”
Sauers’ 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole lipped out, which led to an aggregate three-hole playoff.
Both players bogeyed No. 16, the first playoff hole. Montgomerie took the lead with a par on No. 17 and won it with his par putt.
“My heart goes out to Gene Sauers,” Montgomerie said. “He did a great job. What a fantastic second shot he hit at the 72nd hole. His putt was just a hair’s breathe short of pace or else it goes in and he would win. I just managed to come through in the playoff. It felt super to hole out that last putt.”
Montgomerie said it defies explanation how he was 0-7-1 in playoffs in pro tournaments before Sunday but is 6-0-2 all-time in Ryder Cup singles matches.
“A playoff in a golf tournament is like a penalty shootout in the World Cup,” Montgomerie said. “It’s 50-50, it really is. It’s a toss of a coin. I do prefer three holes. It gives you an option to make a mistake as I did on the (first playoff hole) and come back and be victorious.”
Sauers, who hasn’t won a tournament in 12 years, owned a three-shot lead heading into Sunday’s final round but several players, including three Hall of Famers, were within striking range.
Montgomerie quickly charged towards the top of the leaderboard with birdies on Nos. 2, 5 and 7 while the other two Hall of Famers — Bernhard Langer and Vijay Singh — fell out of contention.
“I felt I needed to get off to a decent start and I did,” Montgomerie said. “I thought it was important for the scoreboard to change so the guys ahead of me understood that Monty means business. To join that pack very quickly was vital.”
Unable to get his putter going, Langer, the leading money winner on the Champions Tour, finished with a 5-over 77 to slip to ninth. Singh finished fifth but never got below 1-under.
By the time temperatures reached triple digits it was a two-man showdown.
Sauers still owned a 2-shot lead when Montgomerie bogeyed No. 12, but “Monty” quickly whittled the lead back to one with a birdie. Sauers remained a shot ahead until his bogey on No. 16.
Sauers had a chance to win the $630,000 top prize on the 72nd hole but his putt lipped out. The putt he wishes he had over was a five-foot par putt he pushed on No. 16 which allowed Montgomerie to pull even.
“At this point right this very second I’m disappointed since I was so close,” Sauers said. “I had a lot of opportunities today.”
Sauers took seven years off from golf, originally stepping away because of burnout. Three years ago he was told he had a 25 percent chance to survive when blackened skin spots appeared on his arms and legs.
Diagnosed with a rare skin disease, doctors took grafts from various parts of his body, using staples to attach good skin to raw areas.
“With what’s happened to me, I don’t take life for granted anymore and I’m not going to take golf for granted,” Sauers said. “I’m disappointed but I’m also happy. What can I say? It builds a lot of confidence going into the rest of the year.”
Winning a USGA event was especially gratifying for Montgomerie after he fell just short four times in U.S. Opens.
Montgomerie finished in third place at the 1992 U.S. Open. He then finished tied for second in 1994, losing a three-man playoff to Ernie Els at Oakmont. Els again edged Montgomerie by one stroke in 1997. Montgomerie was one of three players who finished one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy in the 2005 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
“It feels fantastic to finally win a USGA event after winning the (Senior) PGA,” Montgomerie said. “It’s been a great summer.”