David McKenzie’s grounding on the Melbourne Sandbelt has helped to catapult the Victorian to a top-five finish at The Senior Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes in England.
A 4-under front-9 in his third round of 2-under 68 elevated McKenzie into the top five heading into the final round but a bogey at the fourth hole and a double bogey on the sixth put him on the back foot over the closing 18 holes.
He hit back with back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11 and when McKenzie added a third at the par-4 17th secured a tie for fifth, four shots adrift of Bernhard Langer who claimed a fourth Senior Open crown.
Only four players went lower than McKenzie in the third round who revelled in the links golf that he rarely gets to play on the Champions Tour in the US.
“I love it. I enjoy the challenge of different shots,” McKenzie said following the third round.
“It gives you lots of different options. You can hit it along the ground, bump it and run it and hit it in the air. You've got to use your imagination. It's fun.”
With a best finish this year on the Champions Tour a tie for 10th at the Hoag Classic in March, McKenzie enjoyed battling not only a stellar field but the difficult conditions.
“It's always good to play well and to have a good result,” said McKenzie, who has finished inside the top 15 in each of his three starts in the Senior Open.
“These bunkers out here can catch you, and if the rough catches you, you miss a putt, all of a sudden you drop two or three shots without even blinking an eye.”
Although he didn’t qualify to play the weekend rounds, it was also a tournament of great significance for amputee golfer Geoff Nicholas.
Nicholas had to come through a playoff in qualifying to earn a place in his first senior major and hoped that by playing his way into the field that he can inspire others to play golf at the highest level.
“Golf is such a great game, and you can match up with the best in the world,” Nicholas said.
“It's probably the only sport where a disabled athlete can compete professionally against another professional. There's no other sport like that.
“Disability is only what you make of it. If you start thinking disability, that's when you're in trouble.
“I just get around as if I haven't got it. It's there, but I always feel like disability is what you sort of make of it, and I feel when I go out and play I haven't got one.
“That's part of the deal, I think, to succeeding.
“It gives other people with a disability a goal that you can go out and do something and achieve something, and the level they can go to play with the best in the world.
“I like to feel I'm inspiring people and golf is such a great game to do that.
“There's so many, whether in a wheelchair, so many avenues to succeed that way.”
|The Senior Open|
|Royal Lytham & St Annes, Lytham, UK|
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