THE oldest Australian Open winner fittingly went on a bit to do it. At 7.43pm on a bleak and blustery Sunday night at the Lakes, Peter Senior became the Australian Open champion for the second time - his two triumphs coming 23 years apart. Of his 30 tournament wins as a professional, Senior rated this one his ''most special''.
As the rest of the field crumbled in the windy conditions, Senior held his nerve and his game, finishing an even-par round to beat the record for oldest Open champion by a decade. At 53, Senior won the Australian Open by one shot from Brendan Jones, who was forced to endure a wait of more than an hour as the clubhouse leader before conceding to the veteran.
''I can't believe how many people stuck it out,'' Senior said. ''I would have been in bed by now.'' Stuck it out is an understatement. After play was suspended because of high winds, Senior said he did not want to start his round after the resumption.
Making waves ... an elated Peter Senior greets fans after winning the Australian Open as twilight loomed at the Lakes on Sunday. Photo: Brendan Esposito
''Geez, at one o'clock, I didn't even want to go out,'' Senior said. ''It's amazing how this game turns around. I didn't think we'd get finished. I thought when we went back out there it hadn't improved at all … it was probably one of the toughest days I've ever seen on a golf course.''
So on a dramatic day and early evening, the veterans broke the youngsters; Tom Watson, the oldest player in the field, recorded the best score of the day (a three-under 69), admittedly playing in the best conditions of the day. Only Watson was Senior's senior in the tournament field. The Australian didn't have the best of the conditions, though, having started his final round after the resumption in play.
Thus he lifted the Stonehaven Cup in near darkness, the gloom only broken by the flash photography.
Emirates Australian Open Golf 2012
Peter Senior took home the Stonehaven Cup after winning the Australian Open on Sunday. Up to 80 kilometre winds forced play to be postponed and play did not finish until nearly 8pm at the Lakes Golf Club in Sydney. Photography by Brendan Esposito. Selected images are available at www.fairfaxsyndication.com Photo: Brendan Esposito
''It doesn't get any better than this,'' Senior said. ''I really thought these days were over. God, golf is such a funny game. One minute you think you're down, next minute you're up. I didn't play particularly well this week.
''[But] everybody was going to have trouble - it didn't matter who you were out there. I was just lucky enough to finish in front.''
Senior, humbly, reckoned that in better conditions a younger and better player would have prevailed.
''Winning golf tournaments, you just have a good week at the right time,'' he said. ''Justin Rose and the other guys, they're great players. Not for one moment do I think I'm as good as those guys. I've had a good week this week. I got it done.
''I'm getting a bit long in the tooth now, but if the conditions were good, the really good players would have shone this week. These are the conditions I thrive in, where I just battle it out.''
It was Senior's first tournament win with his son Mitchell as his caddie, which gave his win added meaning.
''It is probably the most special [tournament win],'' Senior said. ''We've been close over in America - we've lost three play-offs. We came pretty close in a few other events. Just once I would have liked to say, 'Mitch, well done mate, we've done it.'''
Now he can. Senior rushed around the course and looked about as relaxed as a golfer could be with the Stonehaven Cup almost in their grasp. Even Rose, the world No.4, faded around him; he was well in contention until a bogey at 16.
When Rose found sand on the 18th, needing a hole in one to force a play-off, Senior could breathe easy in the knowledge he had beaten the record held by Peter Thomson, who won at 43 in 1972 at Kooyonga.
John Senden, the leader after three rounds, faded dramatically with a ten-over round of 82, leaving him three-over for the tournament and in a tie for 18th.
Thus, for the second consecutive Australian Open, Senden had led into Sunday but failed to lift the cup.
Despite shooting one-under on Sunday, Jones was full of praise for Senior. ''You've got to take your hat off to him,'' he said. ''He's been an unbelievable ambassador for Australian golf and a champion over the years. He deserved to win this year.''