At A Crossroad


By Stuart Hall
July 28, 2007

Kohler, Wisc. - Mark O'Meara is a man at odds.

O'Meara, 50, is finding that the passion that lifted him to the level of two-time major champion is the very obstacle for him competing on the Champions Tour.

"The problem I have is whenever the fly fishing is good, it's hard to play," O'Meara said. "That's what I worked for, to make the money to where I can back off and do the things I love to do."

While the fly fishing is ideal these days throughout Utah, Wyoming and Idaho, O'Meara has torn himself away

long enough for this week's U.S. Senior Open at the Straits Course at Whistling Straits.

O'Meara, the 1979 U.S. Amateur champion, will be making only his ninth start of the season in a senior event - and his first in more than a month - but arrives with the intent of winning. He took time away from fly fishing and canoeing last week to work on his game at a course he designed in Park City, Utah.

"I understand it's a senior major. It's not the same as winning the U.S. Open or the PGA or the Masters or the British Open, but still it's a tournament of serious importance," O'Meara said.

O'Meara's rookie campaign on the Champions Tour has been met with marginal success. Eight starts, no wins, but nothing worse than a 14 th-place finish after a 38 th-place tie in his debut.

For a man who won 16 times on the PGA Tour and 29 times internationally, that kind of track record stresses the line between competing and pursuing other interests.

"I foresee playing a full schedule for three or four years and taking an accountability of where I'm at," said O'Meara, who also has a bent for designing courses under the Mark O'Meara Design shingle. "I've been [playing] for a long time and winning is kind of the bottom line.

"When I made the commitment to play the Champions Tour, I wanted to win and I know that hasn't happened. Hopefully, if I practice a little bit more and get in contention, I can win one of these things, because that's something that would be very special to do."

Tom Watson, 57, playing in his eighth U.S. Senior Open with three runner-up finishes, can empathize to a degree with O'Meara.

"I love being on my farm, but I can compartmentalize it to a point," he said. "My other life is certainly important, is a lot larger part of my life than it was when I was trying to be the best player out [on the PGA Tour]."

Historically, Champions Tour rookies have acquitted themselves well in this championship. Of the seven players to win the U.S. Senior Open in their first appearance, five have been rookies. Roberto de Vincenzo was the first in 1980, followed by Arnold Palmer (1981), Dale Douglass (1986), Lee Trevino (1990) and Peter Jacobsen (2004).

When the PGA Championship was held at Whistling Straits back in 2004, O'Meara carded rounds of 73 and 76 to miss the cut. He still has an affinity for the course, though.

"It's kind of what I like to play - kind of linksy, windy, like you're over in Europe playing," he said. "That style of golf, to be my first year in the Senior Open, I'm excited to be here."

Even though the fish are jumping somewhere else.

Stuart Hall is a writer for the Golf Press Association whose work has appeared previously on www.ussenioropen.com.

 

 
Mark O'Meara, addressing the media Wednesday, won 16 times on the PGA Tour but has no wins in his rookie campaign on the Champions Tour. (John Mummert/USGA)
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