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Wonderful Wiebe claims dramatic play-off victory

A truly great links shot helped American Mark Wiebe claim a dramatic victory in The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex following the resumption of his play-off with Germany’s Bernhard Langer on Monday morning.

The pair had to return to Royal Birkdale to battle it out at 8am after darkness suspended play at 9.41pm on Sunday following the completion of two extra holes, and it was Wiebe who eventually struck the decisive blow after they played the 18th hole three more times.  

 

After finding the rough with his tee shot, Wiebe produced a marvellous low draw that bounded just onto the putting surface, as Langer came up short of the left hand greenside bunker. Langer’s chip from a bare lie ran 15ft past the hole, giving Wiebe a 30ft birdie putt for victory, which he left just inches from the hole.  

 

Wiebe tapped in for par, meaning that Langer had to match that to extend the play-off, but the two-time Masters Champion, who had led by two strokes playing the last hole in regulation play on Sunday before closing with a double bogey, once again suffered heartache as his putt agonisingly failed to drop. 

 

As a result, Wiebe prevailed in the longest play-off in the history of The Senior Open Championship, becoming the eighth American winner of the prestigious trophy. 

“I’m speechless,” said Wiebe, a two-time winner on the US PGA Tour. “Shocked, too.  I just planned on Bernie making that putt on the fifth extra hole and I actually was wondering already what hole we were going to go to now. Do we go back to 18 or do I start on a new hole? 

 

“I think it’s always better for both players had there been a birdie to win the playoff instead of a bogey, but right now, I don’t really care.  I’m glad it’s over, and I’m honoured.

 

“I just was luckier today and last night than Bernie I guess.  I also feel like Bernie has won, what, a couple hundred tournaments.  He’s won so many, I feel like this was my turn.”

 

Wiebe’s remarkable victory meant disappointment for Langer for a second consecutive year, after the 55 year old had also led by one stroke going into the final round at Turnberry 12 months ago before closing with a 75 to finish tied sixth, coincidentally with Wiebe, behind winner Fred Couples. 

 

Langer will undoubtedly look back on the closing hole in regulation play on Sunday night as a missed opportunity to seal a second Senior Open title, following his triumph at Carnoustie in 2010. 

 

The 2004 European Ryder Cup Captain had a two stroke cushion and needed only a bogey to win, but took four shots to get down from the right-hand greenside trap, uncharacteristically leaving his first attempt in the bunker. 

 

Langer, who has never finished outside the top 12 in The Senior Open, was both philosophical and gracious in defeat.

 

“It was really my tournament to win or lose coming down 18 on Sunday, and I made a major error by taking on the green,” said Langer. 

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