Paul Broadhurst produced a career-defining performance at Carnoustie by capturing the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex on his debut in the event.
With an immaculate sense of symmetry, the 50-year-old produced a bogey-free 68 over the notoriously tough Carnoustie links to bookend the 30 editions of the Senior Open with champions from England.
It was Neil Coles who lifted the veterans’ version of the Claret Jug in the inaugural edition back in 1987, and it was Broadhurst who became only the second English winner of the championship with his heroics at Carnoustie on the 30th anniversary of the event.
Broadhurst admitted that the bravura performance was “the biggest achievement of my life” as he signed for an 11-under-par total of 277 and a two stroke winning margin over American Scott McCarron, with third round leader Miguel Angel Jiménez sharing third place with Swede Magnus P Atlevi a further shot back.
On his debut as a 50-year-old last August, Broadhurst claimed the Prostate Cancer UK Scottish Senior Open title – an event he plans to defend at Archerfield Links next month.
Now, at the scene of his highest Open Championship finish back in 2007, ‘Braveheart’ Broadhurst was back on top of the pile, but more importantly with a cheque for £213,040 and a lofty position as No.1 on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit.
Broadhurst, who won six times on the European Tour and enjoyed a 100 per cent record from two starts in the 1991 Ryder Cup, had no doubts that victory at Carnoustie was the cherry on the icing on top of the cake.
“This is bigger than all of those wins, I think,” he reflected. “A lot, lot bigger. It’s absolutely massive. I played some of my best golf this week. I hit the ball really nicely and my iron play was really good. The hard work I’ve put in paid off.
“It’s difficult to compare this with the Ryder Cup but, personally, this is the biggest achievement of my career. Yes, the Ryder Cup was massive but that was the result of a load of performances. It was an accumulation of points that got me there. I think this has got to rank higher than the Ryder Cup.”
With his 19-year-old son, Sam, acting as caddie and showing wisdom beyond his years by keeping his dad calm under pressure, Broadhurst converted a four shot overnight deficit into that two stroke winning margin over the legends of the senior game.
As 2010 Carnoustie winner, Bernhard Langer, and three-time champion, Tom Watson, finished down the field, Broadhurst knew he had his work cut out to find a way to beat McCarron and the confirmed front-runner, Jiménez.
It appeared that the coronation of ‘King Miguel’ was inevitable after the Spaniard’s third round 65. But while Broadhurst calmly picked off par after par on the front nine, Jiménez who displaying uncharacteristic nerves, bogeyed the ninth and double-bogeyed the tenth after visiting the greenside burn.
Suddenly, the picture had changed with McCarron picking up five shots in the first 12 holes to sweep into the lead. Atlevi, who had nine birdies in his first 14 holes, was also in the mix. However, he and McCarron both suffered at the hands of Carnoustie’s gruelling finish. Bogeys at the 16th and 18th put paid to their chances.
Then it was down to the last pair out on the golf course. Broadhurst kept his nerve at the 17th and 18th by getting up and down from bunkers to clinch that first major in dramatic fashion. Even Jiménez appeared to succumb to the pressure as he made a double bogey at the 18th for a round of 75, missing out on the runner-up spot.
The Spaniard accepted his fate with good grace and said: “Today was the other side of the coin from yesterday. I was a little bit tense – not loose at the beginning of the round – and then I didn’t play as well as yesterday.
“At the last hole I knew I had to try to get the ball close to the hole but thinned it and made a double bogey.”
As the Broadhurst family – wife Lorraine and sons Sam and Aaron – prepared for the drive back to the Midlands of England, the new champion was able to reflect on his new status as a major champion in senior golf.
“I’m not really aware how big this is yet,” he said. “It’s beyond my wildest dreams. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to players like me normally. I feel very privileged to have won this event. Now I plan to defend my Scottish Senior Open title back here in Scotland and whatever happens I won’t desert Europe. I want to play a schedule which will take in America and Europe. It’s my home and I want to support the events here.”
Three-time winner Watson closed with a 71 to win the Red Daly Trophy for the highest finish among the over-60s and promised to be back next year. He said: “I love Royal Porthcawl and look forward to returning there in 2017 and St Andrews the following year.”