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Others In The Wings

By Art Stricklin
July 27, 2009
At six under par heading into the weekend, Robin Freeman was pleased with his position. (John Mummert/USGA)

Carmel, Ind. – Two golfers with good USGA memories and two more looking to make some of their own crowded near the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the U.S. Senior Open Friday at Crooked Stick Golf Club.

All eyes were on amateur and clubhouse leader Tim Jackson, after the two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion added a 67 to his opening 66 to lead at 11-under-par 133. But among the top five after two rounds were some compelling names, led by former U.S. Amateur champion Mark O'Meara. Former PGA champion Bob Tway, whose son, Kevin, won the U.S. Junior Amateur, also was in the mix along with the steady Fred Funk and senior newcomer Robin Freeman.

"It's the USGA, it's a national championship; you bet I'm going to be ready for the weekend," said O'Meara after firing a second round 3-under 69 and 5-under 139 total at Crooked Stick. The 1979 U.S. Amateur champion is still looking for his first victory since turning 50 and joining the Champions Tour in 2007.

"It's going to happen. It's a just a matter of time for me," said O'Meara, 52, who birdied three of his last eight holes. "The key for the weekend is just driving it in the fairway. I did that on the final few holes and that made a big difference."

Tway, who also was at 139 after a 69, sweated out watching his son win the 2005 U.S. Junior title, an experience he called the most nerve-wracking of his life. Now, he's look forward to making it a father-son USGA championship combo.

"That would be real nice," he said with a large smile after his second round in sunny, pleasant conditions. "But I still like his trophy better. Mine would just be less nervous."

As for his round, he didn't start nervously, posting birdies at the first two holes. But he didn't sustain the early momentum and dropped to five under with a bogey on the tough 18th hole. "Usually in the morning, it's a little easier than in the afternoon. The greens are a little easier, not as hard or chewed up," said Tway, 50, playing in just his third senior event of the year. "It's another very good USGA setup. I saw that when Kevin won. I really like it since they went to the graduated rough."

Funk has already won four times on the Champions Tour, and nearly added a fifth last week before losing to Loren Roberts in a playoff at the Senior British Open, but he is still looking to break through in a national championship or senior major.

"I just keep knocking on the door and something good will happen out here," he said, after his 67, which tied Jackson and Irwin for low round of the morning, lifted him into third place at 135, only two shots behind Jackson. "I like this course just the way it is, right now. It's so lush. It really rewards you if your play well and hitting it in the fairway."

After overcoming serious right knee problem earlier in this year and which forces him to wear a brace while he plays, Funk is fighting another injury this week. He said he has a torn labrum in his left shoulder, but he intended to keep playing until doctors tell him to stop.

Freeman, who didn't turn 50 until May 7, fired a steady 68 in his first start on the Champions Tour to finish 36 holes at 6-under 138. So far, he likes playing with players his own age.

"Most of those guys were kicking my butt on the PGA Tour," said Freeman, of Coronado, Calif., who posted one professional victory, that one coming in 1998 on the Nationwide Tour. "I feel like I'm a rookie again. Do I feel reborn? Yes."

Art Stricklin is a golf writer whose work has appeared previously on www.ussenioropen.com.

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