Colorado Springs, Colo. - There were lots of smiles on late Saturday afternoon at The Broadmoor. There were 13 cards turned in under par, three more at par. There was peace and harmony.
Contrast that with one day earlier, when there were lots of frowns, groans and moans. There were only five cards in the red, and a handful that broke even. There were unhappy campers everywhere you looked.
So what will be the mood on Sunday; D-Day at the 29th U.S. Senior Open? Well, at the Donald Ross-designed East Course of The Broadmoor, you might say the severity of the moping is directly related to the severity of sloping.
In other words, when it comes to scoring there are three things to remember - hole location, hole location and hole location.
"Where you put the pins can really impact the score here," said Scott Hoch, who followed his well-earned 70 on Friday with a 3-under 67 on Saturday to climb the leaderboard. "I think the greens were too favorable to the players today."
You'll get no gripes from Scott Simpson, who shaved nine strokes off his score from the day before and jumped into a tie for ninth for the championship with a third-round 64. "I think it was set up better today," Simpson said. "I think the pins were better. There were some goofy ones yesterday."
Fact is, there may be some "goofy ones" for the final round on Sunday. Truth be told, it might be difficult not to have some marginal hole locations on a golf course where the putting surfaces descend from west to east, where gravity plays tricks on the brain, where dramatic contours can be utterly confounding.
"The greens are very complex here," said Champions Tour veteran Mike Reid. "Throw into the equation some pretty complex places to put the pins and you exponentially make a course pretty hard."
Perhaps as much as any course in the land - the perennially-perplexing greens of Augusta National and Oakland Hills included - where you put the flags at The Broadmoor can dictate where you put the numbers on the scoreboard - up or down.
"I think so," said R.W. Eaks, a Colorado Springs native and former caddie at The Broadmoor. "If they put it on the corners here and it's a tough, tough golf course. You get the greens hard and put it on the corners here and it plays as hard as any golf course in the country."
The perfect storm, the happy medium between fair and foul, can be elusive for those preparing a facility like The Broadmoor as it is for those attempting to solve it.
"The putting greens here at The Broadmoor are quite challenging as it relates to selecting hole locations," said Jeff Hall, managing director of rules and competition for the USGA. "There is a great deal of 'movement' in the greens and one pace in any direction can take a satisfactory hole location and make it questionable."
On Friday, when some flags were knocking on the corners and greens were firm, the average score on the course was 75.79. On Saturday, after the greens were watered overnight and several flags were slightly more centered, the average score was more than three strokes lower.
But as Hoch pointed out, if hole location is critical, it's not that simple. Other ingredients work their way into the coagulation. For instance, the wind kicked up in the afternoon on Friday, further drying out greens, making scoring more difficult. What's more, with the excessive heat engulfing the area in recent days and the grass teetering on the edge of burnout. Greenskeepers watered the greens on Friday night.
The severity of the hole locations becomes more relevant when softer greens are receptive to flag-seeking shots. "The way we figure the play is a lot of rounds are going to have six easy ones, six medium and six hard," Hoch said. "But if the wind blows from a different direction during the day, that might not be the case. Any day, you could have a number of tough pin placements develop.
"Whenever you have the greens as severe as these, in terms of undulating, then the pin placements make much more of an impact on the score. But more so than the pins, if the greens are soft and not as fast, than the greens have just as much impact favorably as the tough pins do."
Reid, who had a 76 on Thursday and a 66 on Saturday, offers another aspect to consider. In a USGA national championship, duress and adversity also are part of the recipe. To a certain extent, madness may be part of the method.
"I think you sort of have to expect there are going to be (tough pin placements)," Reid said. "What the USGA does such a great job of doing is not only testing a fellow's game and his course management, but it also tests your patience.
"I don't know how they manage to do that at a U.S. Open, or even a Senior Open, but they manage to do it."
So, how maddening will it get on Sunday? How close to the corners will the holes be nestled? Will the faces be happy or sad? Hall insists there is no diabolical blueprint, no attempt at give and take. He said the USGA's approach to the final round will be the same it has taken into every round of the championship.
"We endeavor to present the course in a consistent fashion each of the four days," Hall said. "No one round is more important to the end result than any other round. Weather conditions can often times play an integral role in adding difficulty to the setup. However, we do review the weather forecast prior to settling on various set-up related matters including hole locations.
"We hope the players will find our setup for Sunday to be both fair and challenging!"
That may sound like a company line, but it rings true for 1987 U.S. Open champion Simpson. "I do think they try to be pretty consistent every day," said Simpson. "I think they try to be pretty good about that."
Now, if you could just get those nasty greens at The Broadmoor to play nice ...
Phillip Howley is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on www.ussenioropen.com.