Bernhard Langer and Mark Wiebe will resume their play-off for The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex on Monday after great drama in the dark at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
Germany’s Langer led by two shots heading down the par four last hole but made a double bogey after taking four shots to get down from one of the Southport links’ famously deep greenside bunkers.
That meant he tied with American Wiebe on nine under par 271, after the American had missed a birdie opportunity himself on the closing hole.
The pair then took two more trips down 18th in a play-off, twice halving in pars in the near darkness, before play was finally called for the day, meaning that for the first time in its 27 year history, The Senior Open will conclude on a Monday, starting at 0800 local time.
“It was a roller coaster day obviously,” said Langer, who also held a one shot advantage heading into the last day at Turnberry in 2012, but closed with a 75 to finish in a share of sixth place as Fred Couples took the title.
“I had quite a nice lead and all I had to do was bogey the last hole, and I'm sorry I keep you all hanging around till tomorrow, because I usually play a little smarter, a little cleverer.
“I gave it away. I could bogey the last hole and win the championship, and I probably chose the wrong club for my second shot. I should have maybe played it short to take the bunkers out of play.
“I got a little unlucky that the ball got in a bunker where it was pretty deep and thought I hit a decent shot but it came out too low. The sand is firm with the rain that we had. I had a chance to make the putt but didn’t make it. But I made two good pars on the play-off in the dark and I have still got another chance tomorrow.”
Wiebe, who finished alongside Langer in a tie for sixth at Turnberry last year, said it was an astonishing denouement.
“It was wild,” he said. “I really thought I had great chances, with birdies on 15, 16, 17 and 18, and I didn't come away with any. And I know what kind of player Bernie is. But I was surprised and then playing in the dark is a new one for me.
“I was hoping that one of us would bogey or something so we could move on. But, it's a never ending day and it's going to continue tomorrow.
“I think it's probably pretty fair that we both made pars in the play-off, because it was dark, and we want to have a true champion here. Not that either of us aren't, but I think it's nice to play with sun out.”
Langer, who won this event at Carnoustie in 2010, had begun the day three shots clear of South Africa’s David Frost and initially looked calm, showing a mixture of fine play and spectacular scrambling in a front nine 32, picking up shots at the fifth and ninth to remain clear of the field despite the best efforts of Wiebe, who found three birdies in four holes before the turn to keep the pressure firmly on.
The two-time Masters Tournament champion made a further gain at the 12th before storms halted play for a first time, while a first drop of the day came after Langer three-putted the short 14th on his return to the course. With three holes remaining the clouds rolled in again and play was suspended for a second time.
When play resumed after an hour’s delay, Wiebe parred his way in for a four under par 66 and will have been as surprised as anyone to have gained a spot in the play-off following Langer’s unfortunate conclusion.
Frost closed out with a level par 70 to finish in a tie for third alongside Australian Peter Senior (66) and 2010 US Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin, who equalled the low-round of the week with a five under par 65 to continue his incredible Senior Open record having finished second in 2010, tied third in 2011 and tied third last year.
Pavin, who had to wait an hour to finish off a three-foot par putt at the last, said: “To wait so long to make an important putt like that, it works on your nerves a little bit.
“But I played really well today. It was a very good round. As far as I'm concerned, Major championship, you shoot four under the last round that's a good deal.”
Australian Peter Fowler, the 2011 Senior Tour Order of Merit winner, was a further two shots back on four under par while Scotland’s Sandy Lyle was the highest home finisher at seventh following a level par 70.