Kohler, Wis. - Allen Doyle was trying to do something no one else had done before: win the U.S. Senior Open a third consecutive time.
As Miller Barber and Gary Player learned before him, it's not easy. Miller and Player are the only other two players in the history of the Senior Open to win back-to-back titles.
On Friday, Doyle shot 83-72 and missed the cut for the first time in nine appearances at the championship.
"We had a bad round yesterday, and you hope it doesn't happen,"
said Doyle. "But it did, and you know, we had high hopes. And we go home a little disappointed, but that is the way it is. We went home the last two years very happy, and we'll be going home disappointed this year."
Doyle played 15 holes in Thursday's first round before the weather turned. His round was postponed until Friday. By then the damage had been done. Doyle was 9 over.
Doyle played solidly over the remaining 21 holes he had to complete on Friday. At one point Doyle was two under during the second round until double bogeying the par-3 17th hole, where he whiffed his second shot from the right side of a mound.
"When everybody was saying the three-peat, there's a reason why no one has," he said. "I tried to underplay it and downplay it some, but golf is a game; when you're on, you're on, and you can make things happen. When you're a little off, sometimes you can't make them happen, and that was the way it was yesterday."
Loren Roberts has played in the last two U.S. Senior Opens, both times getting into contention and both times faltering down the stretch.
In both final rounds, Roberts shot 73. He finished second in 2005 and tied for eighth in 2006.
Roberts again finds himself in the mix after a bogey-free, second-round 69. After the morning wave was finished, Roberts was three shots off Tom Watson's lead and tied with Ben Crenshaw, Lonnie Neilsen and Des Smyth.
|Eduardo Romero had a hiccup in the form of a triple bogey Friday that knocked him down the leaderboard. (John Mummert/USGA)
"I hit a lot of really good shots yesterday; just made one bad swing and that's the way it goes," said Roberts of his two-under 70 Thursday that included a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 fifth hole.
"But I feel like five under, I'm not too far back."
Roberts has a leg up on the rest of the field, though, having played Whistling Straits six times during PGA Championship week in 2004. Now with another four rounds under his belt, Roberts believes he has a pretty good idea how the course plays. With the forecast calling for warmer and breezier conditions over the weekend, the additional knowledge that Roberts has may be critical as long as he continues to play as well as he has.
"I'm really pleased with the way I'm striking the ball,"
said Roberts. "And that's what you need to do on this golf course is hit a lot of quality shots."
Finishing With A Whimper
If first-round leader Eduardo Romero falls a hair short of victory, he'll have the 18
thhole to reflect upon. Entering his final hole of the second round, Romero carded a triple bogey that saw his aggregate score tumble from 4 under to 1 under.
The slide began off the tee when his shot landed in a right fairway bunker. After taking relief due to his stance being on a drain, Romero skulled his next shot into a left fairway bunker. It got worse. His next shot disappeared into a lateral water hazard in front of the green, forcing Romero to absorb a one-stroke penalty. Two putts later and Romero's name fell from the leaderboard.
"Sometimes it happens with golf," said Romero. "But I'm still one under and there [are] two more rounds to go, and I have to play good on the weekend."
Romero admitted, after being prodded, that he's bothering back pain. He tried applying cream to the affected area.
"But the pain is still there. Especially when I hit driver I feel something painful in the back," he said.
Where's The Respect?
Lonnie Nielsen finds himself among some of the top names on the leaderboard. Asked what it feels like to see 'Lonnie Nielsen' alongside the likes of Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw, Nielsen didn't hesitate.
"You don't use those names in the same sentence very often," he quipped.
Nielsen, a three-time winner of the PGA Club Professional Player of the Year award, has received gobs of attention since winning the Commerce Bank Championship last week. He said his voicemail has been full of messages that he hasn't heard from in roughly 40 years.
"But it's all been, just everything about it has been wonderful. Love to do it again," he said.
Bob Ford, the head professional at Oakmont Country Club, recorded the 17th ace in U.S. Senior Open history during Friday's second round.
On the third hole, which was playing to 166 yards, Ford used a 7-iron to find the hole. The ace was the 15th of his career and the sixth he has made in competition. Ford would go on to finish with a 71, but an opening-round 83 kept him from making the cut.
Alex Miceli is a writer for the Golf Press Association. Ken Klavon contributed.