EDMOND — On hole No. 18 Sunday at the U.S. Senior Open, Gene Sauers hit a 4-iron 202 yards to within 10 feet of the pin.
All he had to do was make the putt, and he would have won the U.S. Senior Open.
Instead, Sauers just missed, and went into a three-hole playoff with Colin Montgomerie, which he lost by a stroke.
For Sauers, who overcame a life-threatening battle with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, the loss was a clear disappointment. However, he said contending to the wire in a senior major gives him confidence going forward.
Q. What happened with the birdie putt on the 72nd hole after that marvelous approach?
A: “Yeah, I just didn't play enough break. I knew it was going to go a little bit to the right, but I knew if I got it outside the hole I thought it was going to stay straight. I hit a good putt, and of course it lipped out. I wish I would have gave it just a little bit more break. Hindsight, you know.”
What was it like dealing with the heat throughout the day, especially having to go out and play extra holes, as well?
“Like I say, I just got that towel and (it) kind of kept me cool. I still have a little bit of a fever, but I feel better today than I did yesterday. Probably those last three holes got me. I'm not trying to make excuses or anything, but I was kind of tired. I was kind of tired the last three or four holes in regulation. Just to get it in was a feat for me.”
After the mess on the 72nd hole, was it hard to kind of refocus? Did that kind of deflate you going into the three-hole playoff being that close to winning?
“Yeah, it was. Like I say, I didn't get a chance to hit any balls or putts. They just took me right out and go. Then I did that same tee shot on the 16th hole I did in regulation. But, you know, I played great. I'm happy. I just gotta move on, forget about this week and just try to build on my confidence.”
Obviously, like you said, the disappointment, you wanted the win and everything, but when you have three Hall of Famers (Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer) on the board today, for you to survive the heat and be there at the end, how much confidence do you have?
“It's a lot of confidence. They're great players, great players, but I know I can beat them. That's just the disappointing part, maybe. They are great players, and I love them to death, but we're all competitors. I know I can beat them day in and day out, given the opportunity.”