||Hale Irwin, watching his ball off the sixth tee, felt disappointed after his first round. (John Mummert/USGA)
Carmel, Ind. – Hale Irwin, winner of five U.S. Golf Association titles, expressed surprise after shooting a 5-under-par 67 Friday morning in the second round of the U.S. Senior Open.
The surprise was that he beat his first-round score by 11 shots.
"Not in a million years did I think I was going to shoot 78 yesterday," said Irwin, 64, following his bogey-free 67 at Crooked Stick Golf Club, which tied Fred Funk and championship leader Tim Jackson for low round of the day among early round two starters. "The way I hit the ball Monday and Tuesday, I'd have bet a few dollars on myself, I was hitting it so well. But somehow yesterday it fell apart. So, yeah, I was plenty surprised."
But not panicked. "I won my first Senior Open (in 1998) after opening with a 77. I knew what I had to do, and I knew that I had done it before," Irwin said. "I'm delighted with 67 around this place. I putted better. I controlled my misses better. It was an arduous round, but I got it in."
Winner of a record 45 Champions Tour titles, Irwin isn't having the kind of year that is up to his standards. He has yet to post a top-10 finish in 13 starts, and only once has he scored better than Friday's effort, which left him at 1-over 145, 12 strokes behind the amateur, Jackson.
Irwin, of Joplin, Mo., not only added a second U.S. Senior Open title in 2000, but he has three U.S. Open victories to his credit during a PGA Tour career that yielded 20 wins.
"Experience helps, but a look at that leaderboard … there's a lot of good players with experience up there," Irwin said. "I've put myself behind the 8-ball, and that's disappointing."
Nevertheless, Friday's round, in which he hit 14 greens and nine fairways, was something to build on.
"The goal today was just to make the cut, as it was in '98. I've done that," Irwin said. "Now, do I have in me two really low scores? I'm going to have to have help from the weather and hole locations and other factors. But there are still two rounds to go and anything can happen, and I feel like I'm heading back to where I was at the beginning of the week. We'll see if that continues."
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com.