In being introduced at the podium as the winner of the 80th Senior PGA Championship, Ken Tanigawa blew out a deep breath still attempting to put into perspective what had just happened.
From playing the final round with friend and former UCLA teammate Scott McCarron, to giving up professional golf some 16 years ago before taking a shot at qualifying for the PGA Tour Champions, and then winning a major at Oak Hill Country Club, Tanigawa had difficulty digesting it.
“To say it’s a dream come true may be an understatement. And to win at Oak Hill on such a storied venue makes it that much more special,” the 51-year-old said. “Tomorrow morning I’ll probably wake up in hysterics, right?”
On Sunday, Tanigawa showed only a flair for the dramatic on the 6,800-yard East Course. He shot an even-par 70 to finish at 3-under 277 in rallying from a three-shot deficit over the back nine to pass defending champion Paul Broadhurst.
That was enough to fend off McCarron, the PGA Tour Champions money leader, by one stroke, and two better than Broadhurst.
Ahead by one, Tanigawa scrambled for par on the par-4 18th after hitting his tee shot into a fairway bunker. He knocked it out of trouble, hit his third from 123 yards out to 10 and made the uphill putt for par.
It was only fitting that McCarron was standing near the green and flashed Tanigawa a thumbs-up when his chip shot struck the rough at the back of the green and had enough spin to roll back toward the hole.
“That was really cool of him to do that,” Tanigawa said. “It was a nerve-wracking and anxious moment.”
McCarron couldn’t help but be impressed.
“That flies another foot and he’s in the rough and dead, and he loses the tournament and I win,” McCarron said. “It was a nice moment for him. Wasn’t nice for me.”
And McCarron recalled something he once told Tanigawa after he earned a spot on the senior tour last year by tying for fourth in the qualifying tournament.
“I told him once he got out here he would be a top 10 player,” he said. “And he is certainly proving that to me and everyone else. The guy can flat-out hit it.”
McCarron’s bid to force a tie ended when he missed a 25-foot birdie putt about a foot to the left and finished the round at even, and 2 under for the tournament.
Broadhurst, who won the major at Harbor Shores in southwest Michigan last year, began the day with a two-shot lead , but had a 75 to finish third at 1 under. His chance to force a tie ended when he missed a lengthy birdie putt and then settled for a bogey.
The final round turned on the back nine, with Tanigawa at 1 under for the tournament, and Broadhurst leading at 4 under.
Tanigawa’s comeback run began with a birdie on the par-3 11th. He then got to 3 under — and one shot back of Broadhurst — by sinking a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th.
Tanigawa tied Broadhurst at 4 under with a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th. He then took the lead for good a few minutes later when Broadhurst had difficulty getting out the rough on 16, missed an 8-foot bogey putt and settled for double bogey to fall to 2 under.
Rather than blaming a cellphone that went off in the gallery on No. 16, Broadhurst blamed himself for driving his tee shot into the right rough, and then his second shot into the left rough.
“I knew it was going to be tough. It’s a tough course any day of the week,” Broadhurst said, before congratulating Tanigawa. “I’m so pleased for him. He’s a cracking guy.”
It was an unlikely final round for Broadhurst, who was coming off two bogey-free rounds. The 53-year-old from England had his bogey-free streak end at 40 holes on No 3. He finished with just one birdie, on the par-3 11th, and had four bogeys and the double bogey.
Tanigawa also won the tour’s PURE insurance Championship last year at Pebble Beach. His previous best finish this year was a tie for seventh at the Insperity Championship three weeks ago.
Born in Kobe, Japan, Tanigawa grew up in southern California and was teammates with McCarron and Brandt Jobe at UCLA. He spent 11 years playing professionally in Australia, Asia and Japan before eventually giving up playing professionally after 2003.
“You know how life moves on and you make life decisions and I was OK with that,” he said of leaving golf. “But to answer your question, back in the day to say, ‘Hey, I was going to win at Pebble Beach an d then win a senior major championship?’ No.”
Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen finished fourth at even par after a 74. He began the day in second, two shots behind Broadhurst and was attempting to his first tournament since the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship in 2009.
In a week marred by three weather delays , including two on Saturday, the final round was played under partly cloudy conditions with temperatures in the 70s and a slight breeze.
Mark Brown, from Oyster Bay, New York, and Bob Sowards, from Dublin, Ohio, were the tournament’s top club pros by finishing in a tie for 21st at 9 over.