JOHN Senden gave his father Gerry “the best birthday present ever” when he won the Valspar Championship in Florida.
“My birthday was on the 11th of March and I told John he could win the tournament for my birthday,” Gerry Senden, 74, told Inside Golf.
“Then I spoke to him straight after he won and said, ‘you have given me the biggest birthday present ever’.
“It was lovely to see him win again, but it was nerve-racking. We were on the edge of our seats as we watched the final holes.
“After John chipped in on the 16th for a birdie and then birdied the par-3 17th I thought he might win it, but we were worried about Kevin Na.”
For Senden, it’s been more than a seven-year wait for his second victory on the US PGA Tour after winning the John Deere Classic in 2006.
Still, Gerry never doubted his son’s ability and had faith he could win again.
“It been a long wait,” he said. “John has always hung-in and tried to win tournaments, but hasn’t quite got there.
“I think the turnaround has been his putting,” Gerry said. “He has been knocking in a few more putts.
“I think they (John, coach Ian Triggs and caddie Josh) have finally worked out a way to get the ball in the hole.
“John has always been a good ball-striker. He doesn’t get into too much trouble off the tee and hits a lot of greens in regulation.
“It’s just been his putting at crucial moments that have been costly.”
Fame and fortune hasn’t come easily to Senden, but over the past 13 years he has carved out a niche for himself as one of the most consistent ball-strikers on the PGA Tour.
Courtesy of his latest win, Senden moved to 10th on the putting strokes gained statistics, 30th in greens hit in regulation and 43rd in driving accuracy.
So, is that good enough to win the US Masters?
Dad Gerry thinks it might be.
“He really likes the Augusta National golf course,” Gerry said.
“There are a lot of tough holes there, but he played well there last year.
“I think he has a good chance and he’s going there with confidence.
“John’s wife Jackie said John played flawless golf in the third round when he fired a 64 on a difficult course to put himself in contention. So he likes a challenging course.”
Senden, the 2006 Australian Open champion, admitted he enjoyed the tough Copperhead layout at the Innisbrook Resort.
“I love the difficulty of the golf course and the way the wind blows,” said Senden, who has twice finished runner-up there.
“The scoring always stays under double figures here and I knew if I stayed in the moment I would give it a shake.
“The shot on 16 was like a magic shot. On 17 I had a foot of break, hit it well and it went straight in middle.
“I got a little bit busy in the mind on the last (hole), but I managed to hit a nice second shot and the putt was the icing on the cake when it went to about two inches (from the cup).”
Senden finished with rounds of 72-71-64-70 for a 277 total and banked $A1.1m to take his career earnings to more than $A19m.
Last year Senden battled through a wrist and rib injury he sustained while warming up in the locker room, but it seems he is back to full fitness.
Let’s just hope the congratulatory bear hug delivered by coach Ian Triggs after his latest victory hasn’t aggravated the rib.
Player and coach share a special bond and have virtually been “best mates” even since Senden broke Trigg’s car headlight playing backyard cricket in the 1990s.
“We went up to Caloundra for a holiday and Triggsy was next door,” Gerry explained.
“We were playing cricket and Triggsy car was in the backyard when John smacked the ball and broke his headlight.
“Anyway, Triggsy came down and said, ‘don’t worry about it’.
“At the time he was the head pro at Keperra and invited John to play golf there and later offered him a traineeship. They have been friends ever since.”