Rocco Mediate closed with a flourish, but still needed an assist to win and Ken Duke delivered one on the final hole of the Sanford International on Sunday.
Mediate birdied his final two holes at Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, S.D., to take the clubhouse lead, momentarily. Duke pulled into a tie with a birdie at 16, then botched the 18th hole, making a double bogey.
The victory was the first in more than three years for Mediate and was the fourth of his PGA Tour Champions career. He closed with his best round of the year, a six-under-par 64, for a 54-hole total of nine-under 201. Tying for second, two strokes back, were Duke, Bob Estes and Colin Montgomerie.
"When I added them up, I went, Holy cr#, 64, that was cool*," Mediate said. "It was just one of those days everything kind of went really good. When I was bad, I got it up and down. When I was good, I made putts. You have to do this crazy stuff. Putted my you-know-what off today, but I hit a lot of good shots, too."
It has been an average season in a senior career with an increasing number of them for Mediate. In 18 previous starts this year, he had had only two top-10s, the highest of them a tie for seventh.
"Yeah, it's been a long time, but the last four or five weeks it's been getting better," he said. "I'm fitting into my body. I'm used to that. All the other stuff that I fixed, equipment stuff, I'm starting to see what I used to see."
He started the final round of the Sanford International in a tie for ninth and trailing leader Duke by four strokes. In his bogey-free final round, he needed only 27 putts, the last of them a 12-footer that elicited a fist pump.
Then he played the waiting game. Duke, a senior tour rookie, hit his drive into the rough at 18, a mistake from which he was unable to recover. He needed four shots to reach the green on the par 4 and two putts to hole out.
“I hit a good tee shot and it just kicked hard right into the rough a foot and I had a horrible lie,” he said. “Then I hit the shot up here and I thought it was in a seam of sod, but [a rules official] said there was no sod, nothing sodded. It was probably one of the worst lies I've ever had sitting down. What are you going to do after that? Nothing you can do about it.”