A Week to Remember After a Year to Remember for Alex Cejka
Alex Cejka, 51, has received a few double-takes as he’s walked around the grounds at Southern Hills Country Club, as in, What is he doing here? The longtime PGA Tour journeyman competes full-time on the PGA Tour Champions these days, but is at the 104thPGA Championship having captured last year’s KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, played at ... you guessed it, Southern Hills.
Cejka has been enjoying his time here, soaking in some great memories, even if the test for the younger set (at 7,556 yards) has been dialed up since he was here in May a year ago. He opened this week's PGA with a 72.
“It’s a great memory coming back, though it’s a totally different event, different players, different course. For me, it’s such a bonus,” Cejka said. “Last year was such a great year, I played great, very successful on the Champions Tour. I have no expectations. I really still don’t belong here anymore. I belong on the Champions Tour. But it’s nice to see a couple old friends, and I’m just going to have fun here.”
Cejka shot a closing 3-under 67 to beat Tim Petrovic by four shots last May, finishing the Championship at 8-under 272. He drove it great and putted it great, and there is no better combination. For Cejka, who began 2021 with limited status on the Champions Tour, the Senior PGA marked back-to-back major triumphs after he had held off Steve Stricker at the Regions Tradition.
Cejka said his game has been OK, not great, of late. He did have a runner-up finish at the Rapiscan Systems Classic earlier this year, and more recently was fourth at the Insperity Invitational. He is trying to sharpen his game in preparation for his chance to defend his title at next week’s KitchenAid Senior PGA in Benton Harbor, Mich. He even sneaked a trip to Michigan at the start of the week to get a better look at Harbor Shores Golf Club where he will be this week. As for this week? He is trying to be realistic.
“I’m playing with young, great players who are just starting their careers, so for me it’s a bonus to come back and I’m going to enjoy it no matter what,” he said. “I don’t have a goal. Our players (seniors), we’re just not as good as those guys, it’s a different league, and it’s hard for us to make the cuts at these events.”
Cejka laughed. “I’m glad that I don’t do this every week, because I would not make that many cuts, you know?”