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Wiebe's 'Turn' Comes at Last
Mark Wiebe was obviously exhausted after what turned out to be a grueling 36 hours in the Senior British Open. After all, the 55-year-old from Seaside, Ore., and current Denver resident had just survived a very long Sunday at Royal Birkdale in a final round that was interrupted by heavy rains.
But Wiebe closed with a 4-under 66 to tie Bernhard Langer in regulation at 9-under 271 after Langer shot a 70. The seasoned German, a member of golf's Hall of Fame, enjoyed a two-shot lead before teeing off on the par-4 18th hole. But Langer committed a rare error on the 72nd hole, hitting his approach into a greenside bunker and failing to get out with his first stroke. He did with his fourth, but two-putted for a double-bogey to fall into a tie with Wiebe.
Because of the delays Sunday, the two played the first two sudden-death playoff holes - both the 18th where both made pars - in virtual darkness. After retiring for the evening, they returned Monday morning and, on the fifth time down the Birkdale's 18th, Wiebe two-putted for par and Langer failed to get up and down to fall to Wiebe.
The victory was Wiebe's first in a major championship. He'd won twice on the PGA Tour, with his most recent title in the 1986 Hardee's Golf Classic, but has enjoyed more success after turning 50 with four Champions Tour victories.
But the biggest triumph of his career came on the famed windswept links in Southport, Merseyside, England, at the 27th Senior Open Championship. The win, worth $315,600, entitles Wiebe to return to defend his title next year at Royal Porthcawl in Wales, as well as an automatic invite to the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
On Monday, Wiebe sat down with reporters and discussed how his match with Langer evolved, and what he thought of all the honors now coming his way. Here's what he had to say.
Q. First senior major championship, try to describe your motions right now?
MARK WIEBE: I'm a little tired, I'll tell you that. You know, I don't know. I was surprised that Bernie missed hit putt - he's a great player. It just was my time.
Q. Briefly talk us through last night from your point of view, playing two holes in the dark.
MARK WIEBE: Well, that was unusual. Obviously it was really dark on that second hole. You know, we had nothing - Mother Nature always wins, and I've watched it win on our tour this year and we've a had a lot of rain delays. So I figured this was par for the course, and go out again at 8.00, and here we are.
Q. How much pressure did you feel in a major championship: One poor shot, you go home; one good shot, you can win.
MARK WIEBE: Yeah, you know, I don't know. The golf course is just unbelievably demanding, whether it's a playoff or during the round. I tried to play the playoff like I was playing in the tournament. I just got a few extra holes in. I didn't do anything - you know, match play is different, but this was - I had never been in a playoff in a major championship, either, so I was a first timer. I just tried to play the golf course as good as I could.
I'm speechless. Shocked, too. I just planned on Bernie making that, and I actually was thinking, what hole do we go to now, do we go back to 18 or do I start on a new hole. I just planned on him making the putt. It didn't go in. You know, it's always - I think it's always better for both players had there been a birdie to win the playoff instead of a bogey, but right now, I don't really care. I'm glad it's over, and I'm honored.
Q. Coming into the week, the expectations because of the year, the injuries that you've fought - just the gratification going forward to win your first major championship, the Senior Open Championship, can you put that into words?
MARK WIEBE: Not really. It sounds cool, though. I mean, that sounds awesome. You know, as I told you earlier in the week, I got a couple injections in my back, and I came over - once I realized I could play and it didn't hurt very much to swing, I was instantly in a great mood, and I knew I was playing good. I had been playing with my son who kicks my rear end a lot, and he even said, "Dad, you're playing great." I said, well, it's something that I can do when I'm not having this pain and I think that helped me so much with my attitude, just being able to swing a golf club.
And I love playing over here. I just love it. It's the greatest. So I didn't have many expectations or very high expectations, but also, my confidence was high. If I could just get rid of these injuries, I knew I could play good, because I started the year, thought it was going to be great, and then all of a sudden I was struggling. I'm just tickled.
Q. Looking forward, 51 weeks, you get to play in the Open Championship at Hoylake.
MARK WIEBE: That's not something you're thinking about as you're playing these playoff holes. I just was so busy trying to play the golf course and make a par. I mean, 18 is unbelievably hard, even when it's docile. I had not even thought about that, but thank you, I'll be thinking about that later on today and tonight.
Q. How do you sum up this wonderful victory?
MARK WIEBE: How do I sum that up, I just was luckier today and last night than Bernie I guess. I also feel like Bernie has won, what, a couple hundred tournaments. You know, he's won so many, I feel like this was my turn, that's what I feel.
Q. You've won tournaments down the years, but we haven't seen you at this kind of stage aside from Turnberry last year.
MARK WIEBE: Well, you know, I love playing here - I only played in two or three British Opens on the regular tour because of family obligations and I have not missed one on the Champions Tour or Senior Tour, and there was no way I was missing because I knew about the history of the golf course. Just made it work, and like I said, I got my back worked on and everything I could to come over here and be able to compete.
Q. You seemed to really get a taste for it at Turnberry last night, and you love this place, don't you.
MARK WIEBE: It's unbelievable. For the people that are over here, and maybe they do understand, but we don't have golf courses like this. I mean, we have some, but we don't get to play them, and this is just - I've said it to you all week, it's the most demanding golf course I've ever been on. There's never a second that you can let up, and it just keeps coming, and that's with the wind not too high. So it's just a true test of not just your golfing ability, but your imagination and coming up with golf shot that you need to hit with certain times and had to hit those. There's so much that goes into it and I'm just so fortunate.
Q. I take it was a restless night?
MARK WIEBE: It was pretty restless. I was on the computer; I was on the phone. My wife and son were helping me get flights rearranged and cancel reservations and get new ones. I don't even know what time I got to bed but when that alarm went off this morning - I said, I hope my adrenaline kicks in because I'm going be to be pretty tired. I have a feeling I'm going to crash and burn in a couple hours. I can't tell you how tickled I am right now.
Q. As for the playoff itself, seemed like you challenged each other with exactly the same shots and then you had the wonderful approach when it really mattered.
MARK WIEBE: That shot in there is so hard and so difficult. I actually - I don't know, the hole before the last one, when we were both in the trap, and I thought I hit one of the all time great shots. I loved it and apparently it was about a yard or two too far to the left, but I just liked the strike I had on it and it was just right of the pin and I really thought it was going to be good, and those bunkers, we saw last night with Bernie, and you just never know. So you have to really pay attention. Par it's just funny how things work out. I just had no idea this was going to happen.
Q. The shot -
MARK WIEBE: I have to tell you, my back has been sore, but that shot hurt me a little bit because of the way I had to hit it. I was not going to hit a fade there because I needed the ball to, I just kept hitting shots like it was the tournament, and not worry about the playoff and all that stuff. It just worked out for me this time.
Q. I know you've been looking at this trophy, something special, isn't it?
MARK WIEBE: Beautiful. It means so much. It's beautiful, too. But it means a lot, that's for sure.
Q. Looking forward to defending your title at Royal Porthcawl next year?
MARK WIEBE: Yeah, unbelievable.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.