EDMOND — On the way out of the interview room Sunday afternoon at Oak Tree National, Gene Sauers said he wouldn’t be at Royal Porthcawl for the Senior Open Championship.
Maybe the guy who followed him behind the microphone can talk him into a trip across the pond.
That would be Colin Montgomerie, who’s now holding two of the world’s three most important over-50 championships, the Senior PGA and the one he won Sunday in suburban Oklahoma City, the U.S. Senior Open.
It’s hard to know if anybody can become a national hero in their 50s without holding office, rank or maybe an Oscar, but Montgomerie’s in a position to find out if he can go win the last of the three two weeks from now on Welsh shores.
After a 21-hole performance in triple-degree Oklahoma heat, you can’t say he hasn’t earned the chance, just as you couldn’t help but hate to see Sauers wrestle with defeat, just as you can’t resist the notion that no player proved to be a bigger star the last four days at Oak Tree than Oak Tree itself.
Sauers may have been the hardest luck loser in a USGA championship since Mike Donald fell to Hale Irwin at the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah.
Donald was a fish out of water that year, doing everything but winning a tournament nobody could have ever guessed he might. He just couldn’t quite close it out.
Nor could Sauers, a Georgia Southern alum, just like Donald, who pulled a four-footer for par left of the hole at No. 16 and lipped out an eight-footer for birdie and the championship at No. 18.
“That putt was just a hair’s breadth short of pace or else it was in and he would have won,” Montgomerie said, seeming to feel a little sorry for Sauers’ loss even as he basked in his own achievement.