Two down, three to go?
To think that Alex Cejka would be in line to win the calendar year Grand Slam on the PGA Tour Champions in 2021 was all sorts of preposterous at the start of May. For starters, the 50-year-old Czech-German hadn’t played in only two Champions event, one in February and one in late April. He had limited status on the tour having won just once during his time on the PGA Tour (and four times on the European Tour). In order to compete in the year’s first senior Major, the Regions Tradition in early May, he needed Jay Haas to withdraw from the field and allow him to jump off the alternate list.
Yet Cejka took advantage of the opportunity, shooting a final-round 67 at Greystone Golf & Country Club to force a playoff with Steve Stricker then won with birdie on the first hole to take the title in just his third career senior start.
If that victory was from out of nowhere, the encore was only a little more shocking. On Sunday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, Cejka started the final round one shot back of Stricker only to shoot a closing 67 at Southern Hills Country Club, run away from the field and win by four shots over Tim Petrovic.
“The last couple of weeks have been incredible,” said Cejka, who finished at eight-under 272. “I can’t even describe it in words how I feel right now.”
While all’s well that ends well, it was an up-and-down round on Sunday for Cejka. He started birdie-bogey-bogey but made two more birdies to turn at one-under on the round. Then birdies on the 11th and 12th stretched out a lead to as many as four shots as Stricker made six bogeys and a double in his first 13 holes to plummet down the leaderboard.
Cejka made a bogey on the par-5 13th hole, but offset it with a birdie on the par-4 17th to keep Petrovic, who closed his own Sunday 67, from making things too interesting.
In five PGA Tour Champions starts, Cejka has the two wins and a T-2 at the Chubb Classic. On Sunday, he became the first Champions tour rookie to win two Majors since Jack Nicklaus in 1990 and the first player ever on the circuit to win in his first two Major starts.
“I’m the same guy, I’m trying to play the same golf. I just seem to get luckier breaks, make more putts, drive it better since I turned 50,” he said.
Cejka goes for Major No.3 the last week of June at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, in the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship. Two weeks later is the US Senior Open at Omaha Country Club, with the Senior British Open then played at the end of July at Sunningdale Golf Club’s Old Course.