SOUTHPORT, England – It took an extra five holes and 11 hours and 12 minutes, but a winner was finally crowned in the $2 million Senior Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Mark Wiebe won his first senior major when he prevailed in a five-hole playoff over Bernhard Langer that extended into an extra day.
The 55-year-old earned a check for $315,000 and an invitation to next year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. It’s his fourth Champions Tour win to go with two PGA Tour victories, although it might take him a while to get used to being called a senior major winner.
“It sounds cool,” Wiebe said. “I mean, that sounds awesome.”
Wiebe needed treatment for back pain before turning up at Royal Birkdale. Without it he couldn’t have competed.
“I got a couple of injections in my back and I came over. Once I realized I could play and it didn’t hurt very much to swing, I was instantly in a great mood.
“I love playing over here. I just love it. It’s the greatest. I didn’t have many expectations or very high expectations, but my confidence was high.”
Langer and Wiebe ended up tied at 9 under after 72 holes to go head-to-head for the title. Bad light forced suspension of the playoff at 9:42 p.m. on Sunday evening after the pair had halved the 18th twice. They resumed at 8 a.m. Monday and required another three attempts at the 18th hole to get a result.
The pair halved the 18th in pars the first time they played it Monday morning. Two bogeys the second time around saw them return to the 18th a third time that morning. Wiebe was finally crowned champion when he made a par and Langer failed to get up-and-down from short of the green. The German missed a 12-foot par putt that would have extended the playoff.
Langer should never have been in the playoff in the first place. He should have won in regulation. He stood on the 72nd hole with a two-shot lead needing just a bogey to win.
“It was really my tournament to win or lose coming down 18 and I made a major error by taking on the green,” Langer said. “I should have just laid up short of the bunkers or chipped it up and made two putts, get out of there with a bogey.
“It almost felt like Jean Van de Velde. It was a bad error and shouldn’t have happened as experienced as I am.”
No one expected Langer to mess up the 72nd the way he did. He usually plays a lot smarter, a lot cleverer. Still, Wiebe played good enough golf for four days to capitalize on Langer’s mistake. For that he’s a worthy champion.