NORMAN — At one point Saturday in the U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National, the leader going in, Colin Montgomerie, built up a 5-shot lead.
But that didn’t even faze Gene Sauers.
Sauers, who shot 69 in the first two rounds, fired up his engine despite bogeying the first hole.
On the par 5 12th, he zeroed in an approach shot and with a smooth putting stroke, dropped in a 12-footer for birdie.
At the par 3 13th, he missed the green right but nearly chipped in and tapped in for a par.
On 14, he hit the fairway bunker right, then went into the rough left before going into a greenside bunker, where, he chipped up and down for par.
The confidence was built.
And, it persevered to 16 and the final hole where he collected his final two birdies on the day to lead the U.S. Senior Open by 3 strokes over Germany’s Bernard Langer and Scott Dunlap of Duluth, Ga.
“Hit a bad tee shot there (No. 14) in the bunker,” Sauers, from Savannah, Ga., said in the post-round press conference. “But I hit a decent (a different bunker shot) bunker shot, what, 12 feet and made the putt for par which I think that kind of perked me up a little bit.”
Sauers, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour before coming down with arthritis and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, actually didn’t pick up a club for seven years but had a two-year exemption to play on the Champions Tour. His last PGA Tour win was in 2002 at the Air Canada Championship.
“I’ve been struggling this year with my swing a little bit and putting and I’ve got some help back home, some friends and some teachers have been helping me a little bit,” he said. “They got me hitting the ball solid now.