By Brian O’Hare
AUSSIE golfing icon Rodger Davis brightened the outlook of a water-logged crowd with a compelling final day at the Australian Senior PGA Championship at the Richmond Golf Club on Saturday.
The 64 year old first shot a stunning 4-under 66 on an increasingly sodden layout to force his way into a three way playoff then beat highly fancied competitors Peter Senior (69) and Mike Harwood (70) in a nerve-racking three hole sudden death playoff.
Davis was clearly delighted to win what is the flagship event on the PGA Legends Tour, a tour he has helped shape in recent years.
It was his 46th title in a continuing illustrious career that has spanned more than 40 years.
As well as the Australian Open, New Zealand Open and 2009 Australian Senior Open, Davis had seven wins on The European Tour and one on the US Champions Tour. Famously, he was runner up at the 1987 British Open after carding a 64 in the opening round at Muirfield.
“I’m extremely happy,” he told ASG after accepting the winning trophy. “I actually haven’t won that title [previously]. Being a life PGA Member it just makes you very proud.”
“They used to play the Australian PGA in August when I turned 50 so I didn’t play for 10 years and then all of sudden you’ve got Harwood and [Peter] Fowler and all these guys playing and it is pretty hard to win,”
“To beat Peter Senior and Mike Harwood when they’re playing the best they’ve played for a while – well Pete Senior never plays badly – is just fantastic.
“You know I had to hit certain shots out there on the back nine and I did. I missed a few putts actually but that doesn’t matter now. But at the end of the day under pressure I hit the shots that I used to be able to hit and that is really pleasurable.”
Davis revealed he had been struggling with his game recently until a dinner conversation with Royal Sydney teaching professional Ron Luxton.
“[He] didn’t even see me hit a shot but he said it is most probably because your hands aren’t far enough forward. You know, you’re probably not forward pressing like you used to in the old days, so your hands are a bit too far back and that’s why you are hitting the ball fat.
So I pushed the hands forward when I got here, and at the Royal Sydney Cup, and I started to played well there. That was it, it’s a different ball flight, different shot, which is great.”
“You never finish learning in golf,” he laughed.
Despite the form Davis went into the final round at Richmond facing an uphill battle.
He was in the second last group with the winner expected to come from the final group that included Senior, back to his best on the US Champions Tour after early season surgery, Harwood, having a blue ribbon year, and senior tour rookie Peter O’Malley, fresh from an impressive debut on the European Senior Tour and using the Australian event to sharpen his game ahead of a Champions Tour assault.
In steadily worsening conditions, Davis shone on the back nine.
“I birdied 14 and then missed 15 and 16, I had two good chances there under 10 feet and missed both of them, then I birdied 17 and 18. I birdied the first playoff hole and the third playoff hole,” Davis recalled.
Senior was knocked out when he missed his birdie putt on the first playoff hole back down the 18th.
Hanwood missed a much longer birdie putt on the second playoff hole and Davis missed one from six feet.
“I thought …. You don’t get too many opportunities,” Davis said.
Back down the 18th and the adrenaline was telling Davis, who had hit a four iron then gap wedge the first two playoff holes, to take out the driver and put it on the green.
“When we got down to the tee for the third playoff hole and I was second to hit, the wind has come slightly down wind and all of a sudden the rain had stopped and I thought I can drive this on the green. And “Hards” had hit a good shot down the middle with an iron again and I thought quite a bit and I thought no, I’m hitting straight into my prefect yardage. So I played the hole exactly the same and hit it to two feet,” he laughed.
The win gave Davis automatic entry into the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast in a couple of weeks, but as he told the crowd during his acceptance speech, he won’t be taking up the option.
“I can tell you right now I’m not playing,” he said. “…. [in 2013] I tried to play and when I hit my best four iron off the 16th and Adam Scott hit an eight iron … I knew it was time to quit.”
Davis won’t be quitting the Legends Tour any time soon though, but he is planning to scale back somewhat in 2016. He resigned as Chairman of the Legends Tour Players Committee in August and will be a little more selective about which tournaments he plays.
“The tour is getting stronger and stronger which is great, the boys are looking after their amateur partner the way they should. Everything on the Legends Tour is going well,” he said, with the tour now encompassing some 70 events in Australia and New Zealand.
One thing that won’t be missing next year his Davis’s zeal to win and his continued enjoyment of golf.
“There might be more [wins] if I keep hitting it like that,” he said, with an extension of the trademark laugh showing just how much he means it.2015 Australian PGA Senior Championship Photo Gallery Australian PGA Senior Championship Leaderboard