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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Tim Schmitt

Alex Cejka beats ‘brutal’ conditions, Padraig Harrington to take Senior British Open

Alex Cejka sat over a short putt with a chance to clinch the Senior British Open yet he took nothing for granted. With wind and rain whipping through Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, Cejka had seen his share of misjudged shots over the past few hours to think this was a gimme.

For example, Cejka witnessed Padraig Harrington flub a chip while just off the green on the pivotal hole. He watched players and fans trying to steady themselves through incredible gusts along the Bristol Channel shores.

Still, Cejka took an extra look at the putt and knocked it home, earning his third PGA Tour Champions title — all majors — when he topped Harrington by making birdie on the second hole of a playoff.

The 52-year-old German — who won the Regions Tradition and the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in 2021 — realized this victory was as much about perseverance as it was shotmaking.

“I still can’t believe it. It was a really, really long week, really, really long weekend, and really, really long day today, playing those two extra holes. But I’m just delighted. I didn’t really make great shots down the stretch but I somehow made incredible pars,” Cejka said. “Going into the playoff, I really thought if I pull a couple good swings off, I might have a chance against Pádraig. It’s really difficult but it’s one on one. I’m so pleased. I still can’t believe it.”

While Cejka’s victory will be the headline, the real story was the unrelenting weather, which caused fits for many of the players. Colin Montgomerie finished the day with an 88, and that didn’t even qualify as the highest score of the day — that honor was reserved for Patrik Sjoland, who finished the day with an 89.

A total of 26 players came in with scores of 80 or higher on Sunday and Rob Labritz’s 71 was the low score of the day, although it followed a third-round 86.

Cejka finished the day with a 76, stumbling home with a pair of bogeys on the final three holes to slip into the playoff with Harrington, who needed a birdie on the final hole to force the extra golf. The Irishman had a 20-foot eagle putt that would have won the tournament on No. 18, but the ball stopped short while rolling into a heavy wind.

“You’ve got to take those opportunities. You’ve got to really give those a go,” Harrington said. “I’ll look back at that and really feel like I should have run that. But obviously, the one on the first playoff hole could have gone in but that would have been a decent break.

“Obviously, second shot then on 18, second time around, sometimes that happens to me. I’m trying to hit a three-quarter 9-iron, and you get over the ball and you’re focused on the shot and end up hitting a normal 9-iron, which is too much. So that was disappointing in the end.”

As for the conditions, Cejka said this was simply a battle of attrition.

“It’s brutal. You can’t hold a balance, even when you’re putting, and you’re trying to punch drivers,” he said. “You have wet hands, wet grips. You have a 40-mile-an-hour crosswind, so it wasn’t easy as you can see on the scores. They were brutal the last two days. I’m just so glad it’s over and I’m glad I have the trophy.”

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