Ochran Captures British Senior Openon July 25, 2011
The 52-year-old American Russ Cochran fired a final 5-under par round to win his first senior major championship at Walton Heath by two shots – and became the eighth player from the US to triumph in Europe’s premier senior event in the last nine years. Noteworthy is the fact that no less than four Americans finished at the top of the leaderboard; Mark Calcavecchia was the runner-up, Tom Watson earned a podium place and Corey Pavin finished in fourth. The highest placed European was Barry Lane, who finished fifth.
There has been much speculation as to why the younger US players on the PGA Tour seem to have lost their way in recent times, and besides their rather dismal showings in the Ryder Cup, the Official World Rankings would suggest that they have no answer to the European invasion – and one only has to look at the major results in recent years to see that the US contingent has certainly lost ground.
But not so among the senior ranks and the 61-year-old Tom Watson (among others)has proven that he can still compete on the regular Tour, particular on links courses where the weather becomes a major factor.
The excitement around the Nedbank Senior Golf Challenge is beginning to build, and although the field will only be announced after the eight players have confirmed their participation, it is guaranteed that South African fans will see a quality field in action. With a sizeable purse on offer, the cream of the over-50 brigade is likely to make the trip to Sun City, and as was proven last year, these veterans can produce a brand of golf that is every bit as good as that of their younger colleagues.
In last year’s Nedbank Senior Golf Challenge, the senior stars played from the same tees at the Gary Player Country Club as the regular Tour players, and they were certainly not disgraced. Jeff Sluman, not one of the longer hitters, proved that canny course management and some inspired putting could get the job done.
Once the field for the Nedbank Senior Golf Challenge is announced, there will be the usual debates around 19th holes as to who might lift the trophy (a replica of the famous crystal golf ball that has been played for over the past 30 years). When the bookmakers price up their boards for this year’s senior event, one can expect an American to be quoted as favourite, because while the “young guns” from the US may be in the doldrums, the older generation still have what it takes.