||Joey Sindelar, who admitted he watched the leaderboard on the course Thursday, put together a bogey-free round. (Fred Vuich/USGA)
Carmel, Ind. - There are horses for courses and then there are courses that bring out the horses. The latter expression seemed most appropriate for the first day of the Senior Open at long and lean Crooked Stick Golf Club.
As the initial wave of players began to check in, a three-way tie formed at the top with Dan Forsman , Greg Norman and Joey Sindelar, all at 6-under-par 66. Also on the marquee was recent Senior British Open winner Loren Roberts (68), former British Open champion Tom Lehman (68), 2007 Senior Open winner Brad Bryant (68), two-time Senior Open winner Allen Doyle (70) and two-time Senior PGA champion Jay Haas ... to drop a name or two.
"Great names," said Sindelar. "Those are pretty much the names that tattoo me every week, except for Norman, and he only does that when he comes out.
"Of course, the cream will come to the top when these golf courses are this good and this tough, especially over four rounds. This is a longer journey than we play most of the year, so I would expect the galleries will be happy with the names they would see at the end of the week."
There were many others traveling south of the par-72 border on the 7,244-yard layout. Bruce Vaughn had a 68, Jeff Sluman a 69, and the list represented a variety of styles, both bombers and bunters. But mostly, for robust Indiana galleries and perfect scoring conditions that characterized the morning, there was star power.
"Well, it's a Pete Dye golf course, and he tests your shot-thinking ability," said Norman, whose only glitch was a bogey at No. 18. "There are things you can do out there to put yourself in a bad position, and Pete will always have something there to catch you, if he can do that.
"Every time I've gone to a Pete Dye golf course, I like the way he tactically builds the golf course. When you get up to a tee, you can't just pull out a driver, even though John Daly did that in '91. You've got to think about the shot, before you hit it, and a lot of the greens, especially the back nine, they've got a lot of undulations, so if you short-side yourself, it's difficult to get up and out like I did on 18 today."
Norman was ambushed at 18 by a teeing ground that had moved up 42 yards from the practice days. "There is a note on our lockers saying they would do that on some of the holes, and 18 caught me by surprise," Norman said. "When I got to the tee, I didn't have a line.
That said, Norman was rarely off line with his putter, as he spun through 18 holes in just 25 putts. Sindelar had the same number of rolls, as did Forsman. Norman admitted that he worked on rhythm and stroke with the putter the last couple of days after coming away less than enthusiastic at the Senior British Open.
With little or no wind, and dry but overcast conditions to boot, Crooked Stick was not conducive to crooked numbers. By mid-afternoon, there were already 17 scores turned in that were under par. Bryant believed the red cards and congested leaderboard are just the start of a slam-bang week.
"You know, when the great players play great on great golf courses, they shoot good scores," said Bryant, who hit 16 of 18 greens and 12 of 14 fairways.
"I think the guys ought to be really commended on the way they addressed the golf course this week; it's tremendous. It's going to bring back some excitement into an Open, which I really like."
Phillip Howley is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com.