By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
in St Andrews
England's Mark Davis stayed solid amidst wild conditions to cruise to a maiden title in just his third start on the European Senior Tour at the SSE Scottish Senior Open.
With winds gusting upwards of 25 miles per hour at Fairmont St Andrews on Sunday, Davis carded a brilliant one under par 71 to finish with a five under par total of 211 strokes – five shots clear of the field – and with it became the sixth youngest winner in Senior Tour history.
Englishmen Phil Golding (74) and David J Russell (73), Spaniard Pedro Linhart (76) and overnight leader Cesar Monasterio (79) finished in a four-way tie for second place on level par following a hugely testing day on the east coast of Scotland.
Having started three shots back from long-time leader Monasterio, who on Friday equalled the lowest score on the Senior Tour with a blistering 11 under par 61, Davis’ bid for victory started in inglorious fashion with a three-putt bogey at the first but that proved to be one of the only low points of the round in what turned out to be a dream day for the rookie.
As Argentinian Monasterio struggled to five bogeys in his opening 11 holes to fall out of the lead, American debutant Jerry Smith briefly took to the top before coming home in 42 strokes, but Davis remained strong, making further gains at the fourth, 11th and 13th holes and, despite a pair of bogeys from the 16th, a closing birdie at the par five last secured a dominant victory and the €47,327 first prize.
“To have won so quickly, in just my third start, is very surprising but I’m thrilled,” said Davis, who twice captured the Austrian Open during a European Tour career which was blighted, in the end, by a serious wrist injury.
“I didn’t get off to a good start but I was hitting it very well so stayed calm. It's been a tough couple of days in this wind but I’ve handled it well.
“I didn't actually look at a leaderboard until I was on the 16th and I was a bit surprised I had such a big lead!”
At 50 years and 45 days, Davis becomes the youngest winner on the Senior Tour since Gary Wolstenholme triumphed in the 2010 Casa Serena Open aged 50 years and 29 days, and the Essex native said a return to top-level golf was a welcome about-turn after a number of years out of the game.
“I’ve not played a lot of golf in recent years to be honest,” continued Davis, who moves to eighth in the Order of Merit. “My last season on The European Tour was 2002 and since then I've been doing all sorts of things to keep the head above water.
“It's been mainly painting and decorating. I had about two months of good practice before this season started but that really was it.
“It's very different doing it at 50 compared to as a young man but that winning feeling is the same – it’s incredible.”
While 40 players shot sub-par rounds in a benign opening round, just 18 remained there following a breezy Moving Day and, incredibly, it was only Davis who was left below par as the strong winds blew a number of other title ambitions off course.
Welshman Ian Woosnam, who was three shots off the lead with 18 holes remaining, signed for an eight over par 80 to finish in a share of 19th place, while Golding missed a three-foot putt at the last that would have handed him second place on his own.
But for former decorator Davis, undoubtedly a worthy winner after combatting the elements with great discipline and poise on Sunday, all that remained was to paint the old town of St Andrews red in celebration.
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