Alex Čejka prevails over Padraig Harrington on second playoff hole to win The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex
3 Min Read
High winds, rain at Royal Porthcawl proved unrelenting
Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex turned into more of a Squid Game than a golf tournament over the weekend at Royal Porthcawl in Bridgend, Wales.
High winds and rain sent scores soaring. The scoring averages were higher than any senior major in the past 15 years. Twenty-six players shot 80 or worse in Sunday’s final round. For the second consecutive day, no player in the field broke par for the round, marking the first PGA TOUR or PGA TOUR Champions event with multiple rounds where the lowest score was par since the 1999 Open Championship. The field scoring average for the final round was 78.515, the third-highest field scoring average in the final round of a PGA TOUR Champions event, dating back to 1980.
In the end, Alex Čejka, who carded a 76, prevailed in a playoff over Padraig Harrington after both finished at 5 over through 72 holes. Harrington birdied the par-5 18th to shoot 75 and force extra holes; the competitors played the 18th hole over and over until there was a winner.
On their second go-around at 18, Harrington drew a bad lie on his third shot, a chip from the rough behind the green. His club barely got through the ball, and he left the shot short of the green. Harrington got up and down for par, but Čejka managed to two-putt for birdie after driving it in the fairway and hitting an 8-iron onto the green.
“I still can't believe it,” Čejka said. “It's been a really tough week. It's been a really tough two days. I can't believe I'm standing with the trophy here. Seeing all those great names on the trophy, coming in here with all the pictures and everything, all the guys who won it before me, now holding it myself, it's surreal.”
It was the third win of Čejka’s Champions Tour career, and all three have been senior majors. In 2021, he won the Regions Tradition and the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
Čejka entered the day at even par and with a one-stroke lead over Harrington, Steven Alker, Vijay Singh and England’s Phillip Archer. Harrington finished second in the event for the second year in a row.
“Yeah, we (he and Harrington) were still tight,” Čejka said. “There's a couple guys two or three shots after us, but you know, I tried to make good shots, but it's almost impossible to make golf shots in conditions like this. In the end, I lost it a little bit. I didn't really make good shots coming in, but I made some beautiful par saves.
“You know, I didn't want a playoff, especially against Pádraig, but I'm glad it's over and I'm just super happy.”
The conditions simply prevented anyone from making a charge. Alker, the defending Schwab Cup champion, shot 10-over 81 on Sunday. Singh, a World Golf Hall of Famer, shot 77. Archer shot 79. Despite shooting 6 over, Singh finished solo third.
The winning score of 5 over marks the first time that a PGA TOUR Champions event has had a winner at par or higher since the 2016 Kaulig Companies Championship (Bernhard Langer, 1 over). It is the third-highest winning score ever in a PGA TOUR Champions event, relative to par.