Irish legend Harrington and three time Major winner on the regular tour had hoped to add a Seniors Open title to his two Open titles. However, after battling through horrendous winter-like conditions to tie with long-time leader Alex Cejka after 72 holes, he fell at the final hurdle, losing in deciding holes to the German.
Dubliner Harrington showed his links skills to beat Cejka on the day in regular play, but he narrowly lost out when it came down to one on one playoff after regular time.
A disappointed Harrington, who also lost a play-off to Steve Stricker in the Senior PGA Championship in May, said: “What’s annoying is I seem to only play well when there’s an urgency.
“You know, I finished up this tournament tied, and by God will I sit back and go, you know, the first three days, I left half a dozen shots a day out on the golf course.
“I chipped really poorly all week, I had a terrible time. I don’t think I’ve ever played a tournament where I’ve chipped this badly. I took several double-bogeys where I would normally be taking pars.”
Harrington’s final round of 75 on the par 71 still featured three birdies and was enough to finish joint top after most of the field fell back when faced with the terrible weather.
In the end, Čejka battled through treacherous conditions to beat Harrington on the second extra hole and win The Senior Open Presented by Rolex as Royal Porthcawl Golf Club was subjected to high winds and rain where no player was able to break par for the second day in a row, with the German posting a five over 76 to finish on five over par through 72 holes and join Harrington, who posted a four over 75, in a play-off.
Both players birdied the first trip back down the 18th, as Harrington’s eagle putt slipped marginally by, before 52-year-old Čejka prevailed on the next extra hole.
Harrngton went long with his second shot into the par five before leaving his chip short of the green, meaning Cejka was able to two-putt for birdie and become the second German winner of the Senior Claret Jug, after Bernhard Langer.
Čejka’s victory in Wales was his fourth triumph since turning 50, with three of those incredibly coming at Senior Majors, following his wins at The Tradition and the Senior PGA Championship in 2021.
Losing the play-off means Harrington finished second in Europe’s only Senior Major Championship for the second year in succession, with fellow three-time Major winner Vijay Singh finishing third on seven over par.
Sweden’s Michael Jonzon finished fourth on eight over par, while England’s Phillip Archer and low Welshman Phillip Price shared fifth on nine over par.
Four-time Senior Open winner Bernhard Langer – who won at Royal Porthcawl in both 2014 and 2017 – shared seventh place with Australia’s Richard Green, Scotsman Euan McIntosh and Jerry Kelly, of the United States.
Cejka said: “I still can’t believe it. It’s been a really tough week. It’s been a really tough two days. I can’t believe I’m standing with the trophy here. Seeing all those great names on the trophy, coming in here with all the pictures and everything, all the guys who won it before me, now holding it myself, it’s surreal.
“There’s a couple guys two or three shots after us, but you know, I tried to make good shots but it’s almost impossible to make golf shots in conditions like this. In the end, I lost it a little bit. I didn’t really make good shots coming in, but I made some beautiful par saves. You know, I didn’t want a playoff, especially against Pádraig, but I’m glad it’s over and I’m just super happy.
“It’s brutal. You can’t hold a balance, even when you’re putting, and you’re trying to punch drivers. You have wet hands, wet grips. You have a 40-mile-an-hour crosswind, so it wasn’t easy as you can see on the scores. They were brutal the last two days. I’m just so glad it’s over and I’m glad I have the trophy.
“You know, the first one is special. When you turn 50, the first one is special. Then obviously the Senior PGA, beating a lot, a lot of great guys in a big field on a beautiful golf course. But then coming to Europe, I was born in Europe. I grew up here in Europe. I’m not familiar with those conditions like links course but I played on The European Tour for many, many, many years over here, and I forgot how difficult and how different the golf game is, being 20 years in the States and playing in sunshine and on easy courses when it’s perfect weather. Then you come here, everybody’s struggling.
“I think we all are glad that it’s over. It was a brutal week. Even the caddies, everybody is drained. Everybody is sore. But I’m glad it’s over and I’m here.”