Kohler, Wis. - Ben Crenshaw has had limited success on the Champions Tour since joining in 2002. Limited because he has never won on the senior circuit. This, after 19 wins on the PGA Tour that included two Masters. In fact, his last PGA Tour victory was more than 10 years ago, in 1995.
Yet there he was at the end Sunday, quietly moving up the leaderboard while the likes of Tom Watson and Loren Roberts tumbled down. He may have walked away with the most unnoticeable runner-up finish in the championship.
"Well, I played well for the most part," said Crenshaw, who walked in with a 3-under 285. "I just hit some really
|His best finish in a Senior Open, Ben Crenshaw tips his hat to the gallery while walking off the 18th green Sunday. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)
dumb shots. And some kind of strange things happened. But it happens to us all."
Crenshaw's best finish prior to Sunday was a T-3 at the Toshiba Classic earlier this year.
Crenshaw had never had a top 10 in 15 senior majors. His T-14 at last year's Senior Open was his best finish in any of the senior majors.
With a final round 2-under 70, he came close to winning his first USGA event in his career and erasing his winless streak. But he wound up a little short.
"On a course like this, there's spots where you're going to lose one or two shots just like that," he said.
David Thore and Craig Stadler made some hay on the 320-yard sixth hole Sunday, which set up tough.
Thore, playing in his first U.S. Senior Open, almost walked away with a big thrill. With the tees up on the par-4 downwind hole, Thore grabbed driver. His drive not only reached the green, but his ball missed going in by 6 inches before it rolled 12 feet past its destination. Unfortunately, Thore missed the 12-footer and settled for birdie.
"It broke more than I thought," said Thore of his eagle miss. "I missed it on the left side."
Stadler didn't make the putting surface off the tee, missing the green to the right. But his second shot, with the help of a 60-degree wedge, worked out well as it found the bottom of the hole for eagle. After double bogeying the last two holes, Stadler could at least laugh recalling the chip.
"At least I can leave on a good note," he said.
Amateur George Zahringer registered a 3-under 69 in just three hours and 15 minutes, and jumped from 60th to 33
rd. As he signed his scorecard, amateur Danny Green was just beginning his round, leading Zahringer by five strokes for low amateur honors.
Whistling Straits took care of that. Green shot 6-over 42 on the back, which included a double bogey on No. 18 that dropped him into a tie with Zahringer.
"As well as Danny's been playing, to be honest I didn't really think I had a chance," said Zahringer, who waited it out at the course.
Intensifying heat also got to the 50-year-old Green, who looked like he'd fought a matador as blood stains dotted his shirt.
"I actually got a little tired out there today," said Green. "It was hot and humid and the hills; it's been a long week."
Green had chapped lips so bad that blood blisters formed. When he made his way to the first tee, one of them opened up. He had to return to the clubhouse for medical attention. Under wraps until the sixth hole, the wound opened up on the sixth hole, leading Green to quip, "I left a lot of blood on six."
Both Green and Zahringer will get exemptions into the U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club in August and next year's Senior Open at the Broadmoor for their efforts.
The 2004 PGA Championship and the U.S. Senior Open were played on the same Straits Course with a little different setup. According to some that played in 2004 and here this week, they found the fairways to be narrower this week.
By the way, the stroke average at the 2004 PGA Championship was 73.163. They played the course to 7,514 yards. The stroke average this week was 75.830 (7,068 yards).
Alex Miceli is a writer for the Golf Press Association whose work has appeared previously on www.ussenioropen.com.