COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Sooner or later, somebody was bound to make a long putt at the Broadmoor.
Maybe two, even.
David Toms did just that Sunday — and not too much afterward was hoisting the trophy for the U.S. Senior Open.
On a course where the greens perplexed the entire field for four straight days, Toms rolled in a 15-footer for a go-ahead birdie on No. 16, then coaxed in a downhill, 20-foot slider to save par after driving into a fairway bunker on the 530-yard, par-4 17th.
Those were two of the 26 putts he needed to get the win — best in the field over the final round. The three runners-up had more typical numbers: 29, 31 and 31
“This week, the putting was so difficult that I got into every single putt,” Toms said. “I didn’t get frustrated because I knew everyone was struggling.”
He shot even-par 70 and finished at 3-under 277 to win for the first time on either the senior or regular tours in more than seven years. Toms finished a shot ahead of Miguel Angel Jimenez, Tim Petrovic and Jerry Kelly in an all-day dog fight; five players, including Paul Goydos, were tied for the lead when Toms and Kelly teed off on the 14th hole.
All had their chances.
Petrovic (70) hit an approach to 4 feet on 18 to make birdie and get to 2 under. His approach shot that hit the 15th green, but rolled off and 30 yards down the hill, cost him a bogey that could’ve been the difference. Asked if he ever figured out the poa annua greens that consistently break away from the Will Rogers Shrine that towers above the course on Cheyenne Mountain, Petrovic answered, simply: “That would be ‘No.’”
Jimenez (69) made his first long putt of the week — a 16-footer — to also birdie No. 18. Hours earlier, though, he hit his tee shot above the hole on the par-3 eighth and needed four to get down for double-bogey.
“Normally, I can read the lines, but I don’t know what happened this week,” Jimenez said. “I didn’t hole anything all week.”
Kelly, who led after each of the first three rounds, struggled with the wind and his distance control all week but stayed in it until the last shot. He shot 72 and didn’t make a putt of over 12 feet over the entire tournament.
“It always comes down to those putts,” Kelly said. “David, he makes birdie on 16 and that par putt on 17, I had a front-row seat. I rose my putter up (to celebrate with Toms). That was just a pure putt and that’s — he’s a major champion.
The way Toms locked up this major looked a lot like the way he did it for his other one — the 2001 PGA Championship. It was at Atlanta Athletic Club where his smart layup and par save on the 72nd hole helped him preserve a one-shot win over Phil Mickelson.
This time, Toms found trouble on the 71st hole.
Moments after his go-ahead birdie, his tee shot rolled to the front edge of a fairway bunker, just beneath an upcropping of grass. Toms chose to lay up, steadying his left foot on the grass, his right foot in the bunker and popping the ball out to 98 yards from the pin. His third shot landed past the cup and did not spin — leaving him the tricky downhill 20-footer that he put into the back of the cup.
“The PGA was the first thing that popped into my mind,” he said.
Protecting the one-shot lead, Toms reached the 18th green safely in two. But his birdie putt rolled about 2 feet past the cup, forcing him to make a knee-knocker to save par and secure the win.
“I think if it was 3 feet, it wouldn’t have gone in, but it was only 2 feet, and I’m here,” Toms said. “I’m shaking. It’s so hard. I know you hear people talk about it all the time, but when you haven’t done it in a while, it’s brutal.”
Next, one of the champion’s biggest decisions will be how to split the caddieing payout. His son, Carter, had to take the bag Thursday and Friday after his regular caddie, Scott Gneiser, was rushed to the hospital with chest pains. Gneiser was fine and returned for the weekend. Carter, an LSU player, can hang onto his day job.
“He did unbelievable job,” Toms said about his son. “I struggled on Friday. I was 3 over at one time. And he was so positive. It was like me talking to him when he’s going to play. I just have to figure out now what percentage each one of them gets.”