BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Colin Montgomerie learned something about playing major championship golf at the age of 51 in the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores.
“I learned today to concentrate on me, and possibly I haven’t in the past,” the Scot said Sunday after shooting a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over 64-year-old Tom Watson. “We’re always learning and today I concentrated on my own play and could only worry about myself.”
The victory was first as a senior, his first in seven years and his first in an official event in the United States. He also claimed a senior major in his fifth attempt, something he didn’t accomplish in 71 majors in his regular tour days.
Montgomerie, whose greatest moments in golf have been in Ryder Cup competition, finished at 13-under 261 for his first victory since he took the 2007 European Open for his 31st European Tour title.
Watson also closed with a 65, and Jay Haas and Bernhard Langer tied for third at 7 under. Haas had a 67, and Langer shot 70.
Montgomerie offered some comic relief on the final hole when he pulled his final approach some 20 yards only to get a bounce off the grandstand. The ball rolled to the middle of the green to set up a tap-in par.
“I feel fantastic, really, superb,” he said. “There’s a motto: `If you fail and fail, you come back and try again.’ I’ve had a couple of failures here in America and close calls, especially in major championships, and it’s great to finally win, never mind a Champions Tour event, but a Senior PGA Championship event.”
Watson, who later this year will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team, put a charge in the tournament when he made birdies on the second and fifth holes and started the back nine with consecutive birdies to pull within one shot of the lead. He missed a 4-foot birdie putt at the short par-5 15th hole that would have put him within one shot again.
“Yeah that was the roadblock right there,” Watson said. “I needed to make four there to keep the pressure on.”
Montgomerie made a charge of his own. He birdied Nos. 8, 9 and 10 and, with precise iron shots and clutch putting, also made birdies at 12, 14 and 15 to pull away. He said the birdies in the middle of the round were the key.
“I was caught,” he said. “It was between seven or eight players that could actually win there. Those birdies were the key.”
Montgomerie will head home to Scotland for a few weeks with a first-place check of $378,000 and his name will go on the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy. The win also netted him a lifetime exemption to the Senior PGA Championship, and 2014 exemptions for the PGA Championship, Senior British Open and U.S. Senior Open.
Watson, who made a bid to be the oldest player to win a senior event of any kind, had five consecutive pars to end his round while missing several birdie chances. He hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation.
“It was one of the best rounds from tee to green that I played in years,” Watson said. “It was really, really good, but the putter felt like a snake in my hands. I missed a lot of short putts today. It could have been a much better scoring round of golf.”
Bernhard Langer, playing with Montgomerie for a fourth consecutive round, hit his tee shot at No. 11 in the hazard right of the green and ended up making double bogey on the 140-yard par 3. It put him four shots behind Montgomerie at the time.
Montgomerie is the third Scot to win senior golf’s oldest championship, and the first since Jock Hutchison won his second Senior PGA in 1940.