Senior wins wind-delayed Australian Open, becomes event's oldest winner

Peter Senior at the Australian Open
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At age 53, Peter Senior became the oldest Australian Open champion by 10 years, as the previous record holder was Peter Thomson, who won the title at age 43.
By news services

Series: Other Tour

Published: Sunday, December 09, 2012 | 1:14 p.m.

SYDNEY -- Peter Senior won the Emirates Australian Open by one stroke Sunday, overcoming severe weather conditions that forced a three-hour suspension because of gale-force winds.

The 53-year-old regular on the Champions Tour shot an even-par 72 in the final round at The Lakes Golf Course to become the oldest Australian Open champion. Senor finished with a total of 4-under 284, keeping his composure while several other contenders struggled with the winds to drop down the field.

Fellow Australian Brendan Jones was second after a 71, while countryman Cameron Percy finished third after a 73, two strokes behind.

England's Justin Rose finished in a tie for fourth after a 76, three strokes behind Senior.

"Winning the PGA a couple of years ago up at Coolum was great, but I tell you what, nothing beats winning right here," Senior said.

Senior had 10 top-10 finishes on the Champions Tour this year, but no wins. That made the victory Sunday -- with his son Mitch caddying -- all the more special.

"It doesn't get any better than this," Senior said. "We've had three years on the Champions Tour where Mitch has caddied for me for the last two years, and we've lost three playoffs, so it feels unbelievable to win with him on the bag."

The previous oldest Australian Open champion was five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson at the age of 43 in 1972. Senior won the Australian Open for the first time as a 30-year-old in 1989.

On Sunday morning, gusts of up to 50 mph during a southerly wind change caused one television tower to topple, balls to move on the fairways and greens and sand to be blown from bunkers and into the galleries and fairways.

The gusty winds remained after play resumed, and third-round leader John Senden shot 82, second-round leader Marcus Fraser had an 81 and Adam Scott carded 76 to finish well of the pace.

Joining them, defending champion Greg Chalmers and Geoff Ogilvy each shot 77s. But 1984 champion Tom Watson was lucky to have started early Sunday morning, shooting a 69 before the storm hit to climb into a tie for 28th.

Tournament chief Trevor Herden said officials had no alternative but to suspend play when the fierce winds hit the course just before midday in Sydney.

"Obviously there's nothing we can do to protect anybody other than to get them out of danger," Herden said. "We have an obligation to the public and the players and then there's the golf course, which at that point became unplayable."

Senior made his first birdie of the day at the par-4 10th to join Rose at the top of the leaderboard and claimed the outright lead with another birdie at the 12th. Senior then held his nerve with six straight pars on the way home to hold off Jones by the narrowest of margins.

"It was probably one of the toughest days I've ever seen on a golf course," Senior said. "I really thought these days were over but golf is a funny game. The key to today's round was that I never put any pressure on myself.

"If the conditions had been better the better players would have won, but these are conditions I thrive in, where I just battle it out," he added. "As short as I am, I don't feel the wind as much as others."

Jones pushed Senior to the limit with two back-nine birdies and an eagle to card the only sub-par round of the final 17 pairings. But it was a miserable day for world No. 4 Rose, who made six bogeys and failed to post a single birdie in the final pairing.

New Zealander Michael Hendry was one of only six golfers to break par on the day, signing for a 71 to share seventh spot with Scott Gardiner (73) and Stuart Appleby (75) at level par for the tournament.

Pre-tournament favorite Adam Scott battled to a closing 76 to finish at 2 over, one clear of overnight leader John Senden who had a horror day on his way to a 10-over 82. Defending champion Greg Chalmers (77) had a disappointing end to his defense to finish alongside Geoff Ogilvy (77) on 4 over.