Santiago Luna (Getty Images)
Santiago Luna held off a determined challenge from former Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance to win the SSE Scottish Senior Open and seal a memorable return to St Andrews, 15 years after defeating Tiger Woods at the Home of Golf in the Dunhill Cup.
The Spaniard carded a closing one under par round of 71 to finish on five under par 211, one shot clear of Torrance, who designed the championship course at Fairmont St Andrews, and Irishman
Denis O’Sullivan, who at 65 would have become the second oldest winner in the history of the European Senior Tour.
Home favourite Torrance, an 11-time winner on the Senior Tour, turns 60 next Saturday, but his bid for one more victory in his 50s came up just short, as Luna landed his maiden Senior Tour title in just his sixth event.
“It is difficult to explain how I feel,” said Luna, whose only European Tour victory was the 1995 Madeira Islands Open. “It has been a long time. On a golf course like this, it is very tough to win.
“Yesterday was very tough with the rain, but I putted so well. I’m so happy to win, especially somewhere like this because it is difficult for me to play here. In Madrid, we don’t have this sort of wind.
“I love Scotland it is special to win in St Andrews. I feel unbelievable.”
Luna, whose previous best finish on the Senior Tour was tied eighth in the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open, enjoyed one of his career highs over the Old Course in St Andrews when he beat Woods 71-72 in the semi-final of the 1998 Dunhill Cup, helping Spain reach the final where they eventually lost to South Africa.
“This is a different story to beating Tiger Woods,” he said. “That one was good, not because I beat Tiger, only because I got my point to get through to the final. That was an unbelievable week with José María Olazábal and Miguel Angel Jiménez. I know that if I play Tiger 90 times he would win 89 times, but that one was mine.
“I’ve been playing on The European Tour for the last few years and I’ve felt I’ve had nothing to say to anyone because I’d lost my generation, but now I’m back with my generation and it is great to win.”
With wind gusting up to 20mph making playing conditions challenging, the lead changed hands several times across the final round. Early pacesetter O’Sullivan was hoping to become only the second player after Neil Coles to win on the Senior Tour past the age of 65, but bogeys on the 14th and 17th saw him eventually slip from the top of the leaderboard, before the Irishman finished with a birdie on the last for a level par 72 and a share of second place.
Torrance, the last Scot to win the SSE Scottish Senior Open title seven years ago, said he struggled in the wind using a long putter, and after a birdie on the 12th moved him to within one shot of the lead, his challenge was dented with a three-putt from 15 feet on the 13th.
He hit back with a birdie on the next hole, holing a 40ft putt before another costly bogey on the 16th hole, which Luna birdied to move two shots clear.
Torrance finished with a birdie on the last for a two under par 72, meaning Luna only had to make a par five on the 18th for victory. The 50 year old’s approach went into the rough off the back off the green and he left his chip 25ft short, but he then putted to a foot before tapping in to claim the €43,485 first prize.
For Torrance it was a first top five finish since the MCB Tour Championship at the end of the 2011 season - a performance he attributed to some advice given to him by his father Bob, the influential swing coach.
“It was tough out there,” he said. “Yesterday was tough with the rain, but today was the hardest day without doubt.
“I’m delighted with how I played. Thanks Dad! It’s my last tournament in my 50s so I’m pleased.
“It was a nightmare out there with the long putter in the wind but I holed two crackers on 17 and 18 – a five footer for par on 17 and an eight footer for birdie on 18.”
Australian Peter Fowler, who took a one shot lead into the final round, fell back after a double bogey five on the par three sixth, signing for a two over par 74 to finish two shots back on three under par in a share of fourth place with English pair Peter Mitchell (73) and Philip Golding (70).
Barry Lane, who won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, was the only player to break 70, carding a closing 69 to finish on level par in a share of tenth position.