Paul Broadhurst went from “playing for second place” to winning the Senior Open title at his first attempt by conquering Carnoustie’s famous Final Four holes at the death in the drizzle on the Angus links yesterday.
The 50-year-old Englishman, four shots behind 54-hole leader and playing partner Miguel Angel Jimenez at the start of the day, came up on the blindside of the Spaniard and American Scott McCarron to take the Senior Claret Jug with a final round 68 to complete an 11-under aggregate of 277.
Broadhurst also won on his debut in the over-50s ranks at the Scottish Senior Open at Archerfield last year.
Yesterday he was the only player among the leaders to play the last four holes of the Carnoustie Championship course at par or better. His birdie at the 15th and three brave up-and-downs at 16, 17 and 18 proved crucial as his rivals faltered on the final stretch.
“Just incredible,” he said afterwards. “Things like this aren’t supposed to happen to me, I’m usually always the bridesmaid.
“It’s the greatest achievement of my career, probably better than the Ryder Cup appearance (at Kiawah Island in 1991) because that was down to a cumulation of results. I’d have to say this tops the Ryder Cup and certainly every one of my six wins on Tour.”
Broadhurst didn’t expect to have a chance to catch Jimenez from four shots in arrears at the start of the day, bu credited a pep talk from his caddie, 19-year-old son Sam.
“The only thing I could do was ignore what Miguel was doing, try to score under par and hope he might come back to me a bit,” he added. “To be honest I was pretty much playing for second place and I would have been happy with that.
“On Friday I was just struggling just to make the cut and coming home in 30 was what gave me a lift, plus a few wise words from Sam got me sorted out because I’m not the most patient of guys out on the course.
“I didn’t expect to come through and win. It’s certainly a career changer for me.”
Jimenez’ four shot lead looked impregnable after his 65 on Saturday, and there seemed no obvious danger despite the early charges of Swede Magnus Atlevi and McCarron.
The Swede – formerly Magnus Persson when he was on the main tour – bogeyed the first but then birdied nine of the next 13 holes to burst into contention.
McCarron opened well with three birdies in the first six to lift himself within sight of Jimenez, but he was cruising with only a bad miss of a short birdie putt at the fourth to suggest all was not entirely well.
A regulation birdie four at the sixth took the Spaniard three clear and coasting, but it all came apart at the far corner of the course with two poor second shots at the ninth and tenth.
The first, pushed right from perfect position on the fairway, shouldn’t have been damaging but the favourite’s lag putt was well short and the ten foot par putt missed.
Then at the tenth, again from ideal position on the fairway, Jimenez carved another one right, off the lone tree by the green and into the Barry Burn.
Bogey-double bogey knocked Miguel out of the lead one behind McCarron and Atlevi at ten-under, and even though he hit his approach stiff for birdie at 11, McCarron was simultaneously picking up a birdie at the long 12th to retain the lead.
Broadhurst had been going along largely unnoticed with birdies at six and 10 to stay within reach, as Atlevi, well up ahead on the course, finally ran out of steam with two bogeys in his final three holes.
McCarron – his putting stroke looking suspiciously close to anchoring but passed after examination by chief referee John Paramor – had birdie chances at 13, 14 and 15 but couldn’t convert any, while Broadhurst hit a beauty into five feet at the short 13th and holed to move within a shot of the American.
That turned into a one-shot lead for the Englishman with the key birdie of the entire afternoon, a fine seven-iron approach from 186 yards to within five feet at the 15th – “A dream shot, one of the best of my career” – which was to be the only birdie on the famous “Final Four” by the leaders.
“I wasn’t thinking of winning until that moment,” he added. “I was just trying to keep the ball in play, but the final few holes were a test of nerve alright.”
McCarron, meanwhile, had bunkered his tee shot at 16 and failed to get up and down, bravely saved par at 17 after another visit to the sand but although he barely missed another trap at 18, was fatally unbalanced for his third shot and failed to get his par.
That set nine-under as the target for the final pairing, but after missing birdie putts at 16 and 17 Jimenez leaked another second shot right on the 18th and eventually took double bogey for a three-over 75, falling into a share of third with Atlevi.
It meant Broadhurst had the little breathing space he might have required, but he didn’t need it; he had his problems at each of the final three holes but made a nerveless up and down all three times – from left of the green on 16 and from greenside bunkers on the last two – to seal the title.
The Spaniard called the loss “one of the most disappointing of my career”.
“I just didn’t look like the same guy who played yesterday,” he said. “I was hitting it badly at the beginning like I was not loose enough.
“At the tenth I was trying to hit a nice little fade but caught a branch of the tree and put it in the water. Things like that didn’t go right for me today.”