Doyle captures second straight U.S. Senior Open title

Updated: July 11, 2006, 12:55 PM ET
Associated Press

HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- Allen Doyle figured he had maybe one friend among the thousands of people following him, Tom Watson and Loren Roberts in the final round of the U.S. Senior Open.

With the win Sunday, Doyle becomes the first back-to-back U.S. Senior Open winner since Gary Player in 1987-88 and the oldest ever at 57 years, 11 months and 17 days.

"My wife was out there," he deadpanned. "I think the rest were all for Tom."

Nevertheless, Doyle shot a steady 2-under 68 Sunday to overcome Watson's two-shot lead and home state advantage to win the Open for the second year in a row.

"I was in a no-lose position. If Tom won, he was supposed to win," Doyle said. "If you grabbed anybody and they said they were [rooting for Doyle] they were probably lying."

He enjoys being an underdog, he said, "because I am one."

"Being the underdog is not a bad thing. It allows you to come into town and take care of business, practice without people bothering you."

A year ago in Kettering, Ohio, Doyle needed a closing-round 63 to come from far back in the pack. With the win Sunday, Doyle becomes the first back-to-back U.S. Senior Open winner since Gary Player in 1987-88 and the oldest ever at 57 years, 11 months and 17 days. Pocketing first-place money of $470,000, he's also the third U.S. Senior Open winner to post four straight rounds in the 60s.

Doyle went into the final round trailing only Watson, who built a two-stroke lead with consecutive rounds of 4-under-par 66 on the tricky Prairie Dunes layout.

But Watson couldn't get control of his putter. The popular Kansas City native three-putted two of the first three holes for bogey and never regained his rhythm, finishing with a 72 and a four-day total of 274, two shots behind Doyle's 8-under 272.

"I got off to a bad start ... and that put me in the defensive type of mood, it seemed like," Watson said. "And I just didn't get the offense working. I felt like I was playing defense all day. And as a result, I shot the score I did."

Several others spent the day charging into contention and then dropping out.

D. A. Weibring, who bogeyed the last two holes at last year's U.S. Senior Open and finished one stroke behind Doyle, took the lead with seven birdies on his first 12 holes to get to 7 under for the day and the tournament.

But he collapsed on the back nine with bogeys on 13 and 14 and a double-bogey on the par-4 16th after driving into the rough. He shot a 68 to finish the tournament at 2 under.

"Can we talk about the first 12?" he said.

Bruce Lietzke had a 66 Sunday and was tied for third with Peter Jacobsen (69) at 5 under.

Roberts, whose 8-under-62 on Saturday broke the USGA Open championship record and brought him within three strokes of the lead, had a 68 Sunday and wound up at 278 along with Weibring and Jay Haas.

Scott Simpson and Andy Bean were at 4-under 276 while Bob Gilder was at 3-under 277.

Watson fans might also say Doyle was lucky as well. After Doyle hit into the rugged rough on No. 11, a USGA official decided his ball was in the hole of a burrowing animal and gave him a free drop.

He went on to par the hole while Watson bogeyed and fell behind by one stroke -- for good.

"The officials were there. They approved everything," Doyle said defensively. "I said, 'Is this a burrowing animal hole?' The official said, 'Yes.' "

After Watson made a great recovery shot out of the thick rough to within 2 feet of the cup on No. 17, Doyle made a tough, curling 15-foot birdie putt to maintain a two-stroke lead with one to play.

"I must have played probably 8 inches of break on it without a lot of speed," he said. "When it got going down that hole and kept going left, that was a beautiful sight."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press