Christy O'Connor Jnr won the Senior British Open, presented by Mastercard, at Royal Portrush after a magnificent final round of 69 for a three stroke victory.
In emotional final scenes, the 50-year-old Irishman won the title with a six under par total of 282 at his first attempt much to the delight of the home fans. It was only last September that O’Connor Jnr’s son Darren was tragically killed in a car crash.
“Part of this is championship is his,” said O’Connor. “The last time we were a family together was when I won the Kenya Open in 1990. We were all five that time. This is the first time we have been together at a win since our tragedy. But we were four and very happy.”
This time he was watched by his wife Ann, son Nigel and daughter Ann. “I don’t believe I would have had the strength to win these two tournaments without Darren. So maybe he is not that far away from us.”
O’Connor Jnr, fresh from his maiden senior title in America earlier this month, started the final round a shot behind Bob Charles but moved ahead for the first time when the New Zealander, the only left hander to have won the Open, ran up a triple bogey on the par five sixth.
Although the 63-year-old, twice a former winner, fought back with a birdie on the ninth and then an eagle on the tenth, his chance of a third title disappeared with a string of missed putts from within ten feet over the closing stages. He collapsed with an eight on the final hole for a round of 77 and share of fifth place.
“I’m so sad what happened at the last to Bob,” said O’Connor Jnr. “That was not at all the way he played. He played magnificent for 17 holes.”
O’Connor Jnr picked up a brace of birdies on the fifth and sixth. After birdies at the ninth and tenth the Irishman was six under and two clear of the field. A birdie on the 17th moved him three clear and leaving him able to enjoy the walk up the 18th to victory.
South Afican John Bland, runner up here two years ago when he last played the tournament, shot a final round of 70 to finish second once again while the legendary Gary Player, chasing a record tenth senior major title, dropped three shots in his opening seven holes to fall back to one over par but was right back in the chase on three under with a birdie, eagle, birdie run from the ninth. He finished with a round of 72 for a 286 total of two under par.