Mediate leads wire-to-wire to win Sr. PGA Championship

Published 6:31 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

BENTON HARBOR — It was a day at the beach for Rocco Mediate.

There were no sandcastles, but plenty of trips to the sand.

That didn’t seem to bother the 53-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., resident as he went in the sand trap on a regular basis and made his way out — even holing a shot out of the sand bunker on No. 17 on his way to winning the 77th Senior PGA Championship Sunday, May 29 at Harbor Shores Golf Club.

Mediate finished the 72-hole event at 62-66-71-66—265 (19-under-par). That total set a four-round record for the Senior PGA Championship, beating out the 268 shot by Sam Snead in 1973.

Runner-up Colin Montgomerie came in at bogey, par, par, par and par and wound up at 67-66-68-67—268 (16-under-par).

“I didn’t want to let this one go,” Mediate after leading wire-to-wire in winning the first major of his professional golf career. He won six events on the PGA Tour and now has three victories on the Champions Tour. “A lot of good things happened to me. I can’t believe I’m sitting here. I really can’t.

“This is the biggest event I’ve ever won.”

Mediate, who first came to Benton Harbor three decades ago to play in the Western Amateur at Point O’Woods Golf & Country Club, came into the final round at 14-under-par and holding a two-stroke lead on two-time defending champion Montgomerie, 52.

The two were in the final pairing Sunday.

“Monty plays like he usually does — solid, good and relentless,” Mediate said. “In the 2008 U.S. Open, I lost in a playoff to Tiger Woods who was then the best player in the world. Today, I was playing the best player in the world of our age.”

With seven holes to go, Mediate led Montgomery by one stroke. When Montgomerie missed a shot putt and settled for par on No. 12, Mediate had a chance to add to his lead, but he also missed a short putt and remained ahead by one (minus-17 to minus-16).

Montgomerie was within one stroke of Mediate as late as No. 13, the Scotsman shot even-par over the last five holes at the same time the cigar-chomping American was going 2-under par.

On the 450-yard par-4 No. 14 “Vervain” hole, Mediate carded par and Montgomerie a bogey and the spread was back to three strokes.

“I did nothing wrong,” Montgomerie said. “I shot a (final-round) 67, but he shot a 66 and you can’t knock it.”

On a warm day with temperatures in the mid 70s, Mediate finished on a hot streak with par at No. 14, birdie on No. 15 (the 549-yard par-5 “Primrose” hole), par on No. 16, birdie on No. 17 and par on No. 18.

Montgomerie called No. 15 the “turning point.”

“I just couldn’t make a birdie coming in,” Montgomerie said. “But I can hold my head high. I had a great performance.”

Calling his performance on the 201-yard par-3 No. 17 “Hibiscus” hole “stupid,” Mediate said he put some “energy”  behind the bunker shot on No. 17 and pointed it toward the hole and found the cup.

“That was sick,” Mediate said. “That hole was good to me this week. I hit a couple of funny shots there.

“I guess that’s what it takes to win these big events. I wasn’t dying out there. I was enjoying it.”

Knowing the tightness of some of the greens and fairways at Harbor Shores, Mediate had been paying particular attention in practice to his chipping and putting. It paid off in a “major” way.

“My short game was ridiculously good,” Mediate said. “I made a huge putt on No. 13.”

On the front nine, Mediate posted four pars (Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 6), four birdies (Nos. 3, 5, 7 and 8) and one bogey (No. 7) on the way to 33.

Montgomerie also toured the front side in 33 with six pars (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8) and three birdies (Nos. 5, 6 and 9).

Germany’s Bernard Langer, 58, and American Brandt Jobe, 50, tied for third place at 271. Anger shot a 32-35—67 Sunday.

Langer, who was 9-under-par to start the day, shot birdies on Nos. 3, 5, 7 and 8 and carded an eagle on the 578-yard par-5 “Blue Stem” hole.

Montgomerie was aware of how doing.

“I’m a scoreboard watcher,” Montgomerie said. “I’m very conscious of what Bernard is going, Even when he takes the week off.

“He is playing remarkable golf.”