By Cary Estes, Special to PGATOUR.COM
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – There is a familiar name near the top of the leaderboard midway through the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek. Now the task for Peter Senior is to place his name at the very top of the leaderboard at the end of the tournament, something he has never done in an otherwise successful 3½-year Champions Tour career.
Senior followed up an opening-round 5-under 67 with a 1-under 71 on Friday, leaving him comfortably in the top 10. Of course, this type of performance in Birmingham is nothing new for Senior. In his three previous trips (twice for this tournament and once for the old Regions Charity Classic at nearby Ross Bridge), Senior posted a combined score of 36-under par.
In fact, the only thing that has disappointed Senior about his time in Birmingham has been the final results. He was runner-up in both the 2011 Regions Tradition and the 2010 Charity Classic. And in last year’s Regions Tradition, Senior shot a third-round 66 to pull within two strokes of eventual winner Tom Lehman, only to fade from second to 11th with a final-round 74.
“You can certainly dwell on the near misses if you let yourself,” Senior said. “It’s hard not to think about how close you’ve come over the last couple of years. But I don’t really dwell on things like that. This week is a new chance.”
Unfortunately for Senior, he has gained experience during his time on the Champions Tour in how to cope with coming up just short in tournaments. Since 2010, he has been one of the best players on the Champions Tour without a victory, finishing second five times and placing third on five other occasions. Joey Sindelar is the only winless player on the Champions Tour who has won more money than Senior’s $3.7 million.
Senior has lost in a playoff three times, including to Lehman in the 2011 Regions Tradition. He had a 35-foot birdie attempt on the final hole of that tournament that would have given him the victory, but the ball barely slid by on the left side of the cup. Senior then lost when he missed a 5-foot par putt on the second playoff hole.
“It’s been disappointing to me that I haven’t won over here,” said Senior, a native of Australia. “But I’ve had a lot of good finishes. If I keep putting myself in that position, hopefully I’ll jump over the line. But I’m enjoying myself so much on the Champions Tour. It’s been great. I have my son caddying for me, and wife is here. So I have everything I need.”
Senior could have posted an even better score Friday if his putter hadn’t betrayed him. He missed several birdie opportunities, including a 3-footer on his first shot after the nearly 3½-hour rain delay. He closed the round with a 25-foot birdie attempt that stopped inches from the cup.
“I played pretty good again today, but I just didn’t hole any putts,” Senior said. “I missed a lot of opportunities, especially on the par-5s. You’re always going to have a day like that where you don’t roll them in, and hopefully this was that one day for me. I’m just missing so many easy shots out here. But overall I’m playing quite nicely. I’m pretty happy with the way I’m going. The game is good enough. If I can just hole enough putts on the weekend, hopefully I’ll be right there.”
If Senior needs any inspiration, he needs to look no further than to his home country. Two months ago, Senior watched with pride as fellow Australian Adam Scott sank two tricky final-round putts – one on the 18th hole and the other on the second hole of a playoff – to win the Masters. Not only did Scott become the first Australian to claim a green jacket, but he did so less than a year after blowing what appeared to be a certain victory in the British Open by closing with four consecutive bogeys.
“For Adam to be the first Australian to win the Masters, I couldn’t be happier for him. That was fantastic,” Senior said. “I felt so sorry for him when he finished with four bogeys at the British Open. But I know Adam pretty well. He lives pretty close to me in Australia. If there is one thing I know, he is a fighter and he doesn’t let things get him down.”
Senior wants to prove that the same can be said of him. And what better way to do it than to pick up his first career Champions Tour victory in a major, and at a place where he has been so tantalizingly close in the past.
“I’d dearly love to win over here,” Senior said. “Really the only thing I’m missing now is winning an event. And you never know which week it might be.”