The 2014 U.S. Senior Open features a number of prominent golfers who have won numerous accolades in their careers but still have the itch to tee it up in major competition.
One of the biggest storylines entering the event was a strong contingent of first-time participants in Champions Tour majors, headlined by Vijay Singh. The former world No. 1 won a record 22 PGA Tour events after turning 40. With his dedication to fitness, he still has the firepower to conquer a shorter course than he's accustomed to in Oak Tree National this week.
"I feel like I can still win out here (on the PGA Tour)," said Singh, per USGA.org's Dave Shedloski. "But I think it will be fun to see how my game stacks up in a senior major like the U.S. Senior Open. We’ll see what happens."
Singh started the event in fine form, joining a slew of exceptional players at two under par. It wasn't quite enough to get to the top of the leaderboard in Round 1, though, as Colin Montgomerie seized the lead at six under par.
Read on to find out how this championship in Edmond, Oklahoma, plays out through daily recaps and analysis of the action.
Note: Tournament statistics are courtesy of USGA.org.
Day 4 Recap
Colin Montgomerie just can't stop winning. It took him a playoff this time around, but Montgomerie followed up his Senior PGA Championship in May with a triumph at the U.S. Senior Open.
From the Golf Channel:
Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel has more on the monumental achievement:
Here’s a sentence that’s never been written before: Man, that Colin Montgomerie just won’t stop winning majors!— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 13, 2014
After a career without a major, Monty has two in a row on senior circuit. The Golf Gods cruelest joke or greatest retribution. Maybe both.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 13, 2014
Montgomerie certainly isn't complaining. In fact, he just seemed relieved to win the whole thing afterwards, per Sobel:
Colin Montgomerie looking into the camera: “If anyone thinks these senior majors are easy to win, believe me: Come on out and try it.”— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 13, 2014
Here's a final look at the leaderboard:
Gene Sauers came into the day with a three-stroke lead and was four strokes up on Montgomerie but shot above 70 for the first time in this tournament, finishing with a disappointing 73. Montgomerie, meanwhile, couldn't replicate the epic 65 he shot to start the tournament but only needed a 69 to force a playoff, which he got.
Sauers wasn't alone in struggling on the final day; among the top seven finishers in the tournament, only Montgomerie finished with a score lower than 70 on the day. He bogeyed just two holes (Nos. 3 and 12) while notching birdies on Nos. 2, 5, 7 and 13.
In the end, it was another triumph for Montgomerie on the Senior Tour after failing at the majors during his PGA days. Justin Ray of the Golf Channel put that fact into context:
Colin Montgomerie: 0-for-71 in his career in the 'regular' majors. Now 2-for-7 in Champions Tour majors.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 13, 2014
Look out, seniors—Montgomerie has become quite the ringer. Saying he is in the twilight of his career has never felt more inaccurate.
Day 3 Recap
Moving day at the U.S. Senior Open lived up to its billing; however, most of the field found themselves moving backward, as just three golfers recorded sub-par rounds on Saturday.
One such player to move backward was 54-hole leader Colin Montgomerie, who put up at three-over 74 on the day. Taking advantage of Monty's slip was Gene Sauers, firing a brilliant three-under 68 to take the outright lead.
Here's how the leaderboard looks heading into Sunday's final round:
The Champions Tour noted the contrast of countries represented atop the leaderboard:
Things didn't start too promising for Sauers on Day 3 of action from Oak Tree National. He began his round by taking a bogey at the par-four first—a disappointing score considering the shortish 401-yard distance.
Although, he redeemed himself in a big way, getting through his remaining 17 holes without another blemish and recording four birdies along the way.
Sauers finished with a flourish, birdieing hole Nos. 16 and 18 en route to his 68 on the day. He now has a clear three-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer, who sits at four-under par for the tournament.
The Champions Tour was quick to tweet Sauers' fine round and new U.S. Senior Open standing:
Gene Sauers birdies No. 18 to finish with a 68 and his lead is now three strokes at the U.S. Senior Open.— Champions Tour (@ChampionsTour) July 12, 2014
Monty didn't have the same fortune on Saturday, as the 54-hole leader saw his lead completely diminish after shooting a three-over 74.
In opposite fashion from Sauers, his round started nicely with birdies on the first and third holes. However, it would all go downhill from there.
Monty only recorded one more birdie on Saturday—capitalizing on the short par-four 15th—and accompanied that with six bogeys, including taking a pair of sixes on two of the course's three par fives.
Marco Dawson finds himself in good position heading into Sunday after his two-under 69 on the day. Unfortunately, he could be in better position, playing hole Nos. 7 through 15 in six-under par but following that great stretch up with three consecutive bogeys.
The official U.S. Open Twitter account noted Dawson's brief tie for first before his poor finish:
We've got a three-way tie at the #USSeniorOpen! Marco Dawson birdied No. 15 to move to -5 for the Championship.— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) July 12, 2014
Although only nine golfers remain under par for the tournament, the difficult conditions in Oklahoma will surely lead to a dramatic finish on Sunday.
Can Sauers hang on, or will we see a surge from Langer, Monty or Vijay Singh on Day 4? Get ready for a thrilling conclusion to this year's U.S. Senior Open.
Day 2 Recap
After two days of play, Colin Montgomerie remains in the lead, following his blazing 65 in Round 1 with an even-par 71 in Round 2. Although he remains at six under and in the lead, his score on Friday allowed the field to close in.
American Scott Dunlap led the charge on Day 2 to tighten things up atop the leaderboard. Here's a glance at how things look heading into the weekend:
|T5||Lance Ten Broeck||70||69||-3|
|T10||Wes Short Jr.||73||68||-1|
It was a solid day on Friday for Monty, as he accumulated 14 pars and two birdies on the day. However, the longer par fours at Oak Tree National gave him some fits, as he recorded bogeys on the 472-yard third hole and 441-yard sixth.
According to a tweet from Christine Van Timmeren of Fox25 News, Scot struggled a bit with the Oklahoma heat:
US Senior Open leader Colin Montgomerie talked about struggling with the Oklahoma heat. pic.twitter.com/VMp92JjS9r— ChristineVanTimmeren (@ChristineFox25) July 12, 2014
Monty's struggles paved the way for Dunlap to make up some ground after a nice Day 2 surge.
Dunlap started on the back nine on Friday, parring his first nine holes en route to an even-par 36. But he really turned it up on the front nine thereafter.
The American birdied hole Nos. 2, 5 and 7 while avoiding any blemishes to turn in three-under 32 on the front nine and move to five under for the tournament—just one stroke behind Montgomerie heading into the weekend.
Bernhard Langer—who's currently four-under par after a nice 69 on Friday—praised Dunlap's bogey-free round on Day 2 of the tournament, courtesy of the U.S. Open's official Twitter account:
"I take my hat off to that. That's very good playing, it's hard to not make bogeys." Bernhard Langer on Scott Dunlap's bogey-free round.— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) July 12, 2014
Langer played nicely on Friday as well, taking over the lead at one point, via a tweet from the Champions Tour:
Bernhard Langer birdies #14 and takes over the lead from @montgomeriefdn & Scott Dunlap at U.S. Senior Open at -6.— Champions Tour (@ChampionsTour) July 11, 2014
Unfortunately, he'd stumble on the way in, recording three bogeys and one birdie in his final four holes.
One big notable in the top 10 is Vijay Singh. He's fared nicely in his Senior Open debut, recording a 69 on Thursday and 71 on Friday to head into the weekend at two-under par.
The U.S. Open's official Twitter account captured Singh's thoughts on his Day 2 round:
Singh's comments are spot on, as he looked great on the front nine, recording four birdies and one bogey for a three-under 32; however, he struggled on the back side, as three bogeys saw him head to the clubhouse at even for the day.
Many players are still well in contention heading into the weekend. The Champions Tour noted leading a U.S. Open after 36 holes hasn't exactly led to an abundance of victories in recent years:
We are certainly in for one exciting weekend in Oklahoma.
Day 1 Recap
Colin Montgomerie may have never won a major championship during his prime, but he has made a name for himself at the dawn of his Champions Tour career.
The man affectionately known as "Monty" fired a six-under 65 in the first round of the U.S. Senior Open on Thursday, securing a one-stroke lead over Marco Dawson. Here is a look at the top performers through the first 18 holes at Oak Tree National:
Montgomerie began his opening round on the back nine, birdieing Nos. 14 through 16 to turn in a three-under 33. He rattled off another string of birdies on the sixth, seventh and eighth holes before parring the par-four ninth to close his day.
Ball-striking is important in a U.S. Open setting, but to go as low as Monty did to start this tournament, a hot flat stick is required. That's something the veteran credited afterward for his strong form:
Dawson is a late bloomer to say the least, having never won on the PGA Tour. His round is a testament to his grit, and he feels his relatively young age may give him an edge, per Shedloski:
I know, I hate to say it but a lot of these guys get tired because of their age. They get tired after three rounds, you know, especially after a practice round and all the walking. So, being that I'm 50, I guess I'm the rookie out here. I've been walking for the last 20 years on the regular Tour and I've been trying to stay in shape.
However, it will be a surprise if he is in contention when the weekend rolls around, especially with how stacked the leaderboard is and the fact that Dawson needed just 25 putts. Replicating that type of work on Oak Tree's tricky greens will be difficult under such intense pressure.
And Monty seems up to the task to battle the hot Oklahoma temperatures, evident in his finding 16 of 18 greens in regulation:
"My physical conditioning is obviously up to scratch, no question about that," says a smiling @montgomeriefdn when discussing the heat.— Champions Tour (@ChampionsTour) July 10, 2014
Mark Brooks, who lost in a 2001 U.S. Open playoff to Retief Goosen, carded five birdies on his front nine and birdied No. 9 to close out a round of 68, moving into solo third. Past Masters winners Bernhard Langer and Vijay Singh lead the pack at two under, while other notables such as Rocco Mediate, Fred Funk and Peter Jacobsen are just one shot back.
Play was suspended just before the entire round could be completed, per Scott Wright of The Oklahoman:
Play was suspended at the US Senior Open at 8:55 pm due to darkness. Three players were still on the course.— Scott Wright (@ScottWrightOK) July 11, 2014
This is the first time Montgomerie has held an overnight first-round lead in quite some time, but the last occurrence came on a similar stage:
Last time @montgomeriefdn led a PGA/Champions TOUR event after 1st rd. was at 2006 U.S. Open.— Champions Tour (@ChampionsTour) July 11, 2014
Mickelson went with a driver off the tee on the 18th, hit it wildly and hacked his way to double bogey, losing by one stroke to Geoff Ogilvy. Montgomerie also carded a six on the closing par four, tying Mickelson for second.
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel hinted at Montgomerie's past trials and tribulations:
Colin Montgomerie leads the U.S. Senior Open. Might be the Golf Gods' cruelest joke ever: Dude turns 50 and starts crushing majors.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 10, 2014
More than eight years later, the 51-year-old Scotsman—a 31-time winner on the European Tour and a World Golf Hall of Famer—is experiencing a competitive renaissance of sorts. After winning the Senior PGA Championship in May by four strokes over the legendary Tom Watson, Montgomerie has an inside track to win his second Champions Tour major.
Streaky putting has often been the reason Montgomerie hasn't had more success in his spectacular career. If he can keep that part of his game going, there's no reason to discount the possibility that he'll raise the trophy by week's end.
Plenty of players who have gotten it done on golf's most nerve-wracking stages, something Monty can't lay claim to, are in hot pursuit. That Montgomerie has already won a major on the Champions Tour is a positive sign, but he'll have to bear the weight of expectations that comes with a solid first round.
A strong mix of Champions Tour rookies and others who have won U.S. Senior Opens, such as Langer, Funk, Jacobsen and Olin Browne, are also giving chase. For fans of pro golf's previous era, this leaderboard is just about as good as it gets.