He started the week at Sunningdale as a 200-1 outsider in a field that had former major champions, Langer, Clarke, Furyk and Els and on form Jerry Kelly, Miguel Jiminez and Thomas Bjorn. And yet it was Stephen Dodd’s coolness under pressure that saw him score -13 and win the Senior Open, a senior major that opens doors to the 150th Open at St Andrews and some life changing opportunities.
He won the 1989 Amateur championship and was a member of the first Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup side to beat the Americans on home soil.
Then three European Tour victories came along between 2004 and 2006. In 2005 he teamed with compatriot Bradley Dredge to claim the World Cup of Golf for Wales. And just over a decade later, he recorded the first of three wins on the European Senior Tour.
At Sunningdale he birdied the 72nd hole, to clinch the Senior Open title by a shot from Spain’s Miguel Jiminez with Darren Clarke and Bernhard Langer in third and fourth. Jerry Kelly, the leading momey winner on the Champions Tour couldn’t putt consistently all week and ended 6th.
“I knew exactly where I was,” said Dodd of his thoughts standing over the 6-iron he struck from the right rough to eight feet on the finishing hole. “I like to see the scoreboards and know what I need to do. For me it focuses my mind more on what I need to do. I hit some decent shots coming down the last few holes.”
For Dodd, who had played very little competitive golf—one tournament, in fact—over the previous 18 months because of the global pandemic, the perks of victory will surely outweigh the $375,000 first-place check he will be soon be banking. An exemption onto the PGA Tour Champions beckons, and just under a year from now the 55-year-old will be able to tee-up in the Open Championship at St. Andrews without having to qualify.
“That will be special,” he said with a smile. “I’ll have to start trying to hit it a bit harder and further.”
“This is an amazing feeling,” he siad. His third round 62 equalled the course record. “I was in control of my emotions out there, I just wasn’t in control of the ball, which was a problem. It was a bit of a battle out there. But luckily, I gave myself a few chances. I really didn’t know what sort of game I was going to wake up to. Today wasn’t a great one, so it was a challenge. I scrambled my way around because I hit a lot of bad shots. Holding the trophy was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to come in and do myself justice. Hopefully I’ve done that.”