(Reuters) - Colin Montgomerie won the $3.5 million U.S. Senior Open when he edged American Gene Sauers in a three-hole aggregate playoff in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Sunday.
The burly Scot sank a 13-foot par putt to claim victory in the U.S. Golf Assocation's (USGA) flagship over-50s event.
It was particularly sweet for Montgomerie, who endured three close runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open but has never won a regular tour major.
"It's great to finally win a USGA event," he told reporters after coming from four strokes behind, shooting 69 to tie Sauers (73) at five-under 279, four strokes clear of South African David Frost and American Woody Austin at Oak Tree National.
"I've lost in a playoff (1994) and been one shot behind a couple of times (1997 and 2006) and you have to wait to 50 to finally win one."
It was Montgomerie's second major title of the year on the Champions Tour, after he won the Senior PGA Championship in May.
But the man who won the European Tour Order of Merit eight times had to dodge a bullet at the final hole on Sunday when Sauers hit a superb four-iron to six-feet at the final hole of regulation.
"Bloody hell," Montgomerie, who was in the scoring trailer, said as he watched Sauer's ball trickle up close to the hole.
Sauers, however, could not convert what would have been the winning putt, his ball catching the right edge of the hole but lipping out.
That sent the championship to a three-hole aggregate score playoff, where Montgomerie finally prevailed, but only barely, playing the holes in one-over.
"My playoff record is pretty weak, to be honest," Montgomerie said. "I think I've been in 10 (worldwide) and won one of them up till today.
"You talk about the Ryder Cup and one-on-one I'm usually quite good. A playoff in a golf tournament is like a penalty shoot-out in the World Cup. You don't know what's going to happen."
It was not to be a fairytale comeback for Sauers, who three years ago suffered an excruciatingly painful and potentially deadly skin affliction.
"I don't take life for granted anymore. I'm not going to take golf for granted," said the 51-year-old, who won three times on the PGA Tour.
"I would like to take home that trophy. One day I will.
Among the rewards for Montgomerie's victory is a spot in next year's U.S. Open.
The major dream is still alive.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina.; Editing by Gene Cherry and Ian Ransom