For more than a decade John Senden has quietly gone about his golf in America relentlessly hitting more greens in regulation than almost all of the others and winning a lot of money. He is one of only eight players to have finished among the top 125 money winners for a dozen consecutive seasons. He has never sought the attention and he was always marked as one whom, whilst a frequent contender, wasn t going to win very often. Some pointed to his putting and others to poor play and poor shots when there was a championship to be won. He played beautiful golf at The Lakes during the 2012 Australian Open and lead after 54 holes only to be utterly derailed by the vile, high winds that made the final round so brutally difficult. Six years earlier he won the Australian Open at Royal Sydney when, with U.S Open champion Geoff Ogilvy threatening, he hit two incredible shots to finish. Royal Sydney s 17th may be the most difficult short hole in the country and coming right at the end of a championship it is not a tee shot any player looks forward to hitting. Senden ripped a long iron to a couple of feet and then at the finisher did the same with his nine iron approach into the same green that derailed Adam Scott s Open hopes in December. This week in Tampa, Senden found himself in a place he has been before. There were a few with winning chances including Luke Donald, Scott Langley, Robert Garrigus and the interminably slow playing Kevin Na. Anyone of them could have pulled it off but it was Senden who came up with the brilliant shots to separate him from the others. A hook off the 16th tee left him with a couple of hundred yards to the green off rough ground formed by a combination of sand and pine needles. Water threatened on the right but he hit the exact shot he needed leaving himself a reasonably easy pitch and putt to save a four. Instead the Queenslander pitched perfectly into the hole and the birdie put him ahead of Na by a shot. Just as it was at Royal Sydney, the 17th was a par three playing just over two hundred yards and whilst he didn t knock the six iron tee shot by the hole he was safely left and twenty-five feet away. Here was a putt Senden had made a career of missing but instead of lagging close for the safe and comfortable par, he rolled it perfectly into the middle of the cup. Two ahead now he safely negotiated the 72nd with a two iron fired safely away from the fairway bunkers and from the right rough a commercial eight iron shot stopped thirty feet away. Two putting when you are nervous isn t as easy as it sometimes appears but Senden rolled the ball right to the edge of the cup and locked up his second win in the United States. This was a wonderful week earning him an invitation to Augusta and he will go there with some well-earned confidence and a new group of admirers.
Author: Mike Clayton / golf.org.au