Kohler, Wis. - Despite winning two U.S. Opens and totaling 17 PGA Tour victories, Curtis Strange has yet to find equivalent success on the Champions Tour.
Strangely, in Strange's 51 appearances on the Champions Tour since he became a member in 2005, he has never won. He placed third - his best finish - at the Constellation Energy Classic that first year.
Yet, when he first made the leap to the Champions Tour after doing golf color commentary on ABC Sports, Strange was excited about his chances. Unfortunately, the form he has come up with has not produced the results he's looking for.
"It took a little while," said Strange of playing competitive golf again. "Mainly because I just didn't play very well. But I'm comfortable, yeah. Kind of found my little niche now, and routine, and it's nice."
This year Strange has one top-10 finish, placing seventh at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am. He also has five top-15 finishes, including last week's tie for 12th at the Commerce Bank Championship.
With his success at Open venues and his game rounding into competitive shape, Strange may be a darkhorse for this week, if for no other reason that he is battle tested in U.S. Opens.
"It's a hard golf course," said Strange of Whistling Straits. "The U.S. Open should be the toughest test we play in. I truly believe that.
But this is hard. I give credit for that. I guess maybe this is where we're going in golf. The young guys are so good, and so I think also maybe this is what they have to play to offset the talent level - if they want to keep par as a barometer of what, who knows, but it's hard."
Denis Watson is playing in his first U.S. Senior Open, but it's not his first major. Watson came out of basically nowhere to win the PGA Senior Championship in May at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.
Pete Dye designed both the Ocean Course and this week's Straits Course at Whistling Straits, which might lead observers to believe Watson has some form of advantage. Not so says the Zimbabwean.
"Doesn't mean anything," Watson said. "It's a new week. This is a
different kind of golf course. This is very intimidating visually.
More off the tee than Kiawah was. I think that Kiawah [had] intimidating second shots looking at them. And so this is more of a premium on driving the ball here. Kiawah was a little wider in that there was away to drive it if you weren't driving it great."
Watson added that the greens are different. The greens at Kiawah were larger and a bit flatter, like a traditional links course. The Straights features much more movement in the greens.
But the biggest issue will be driving the ball.
"There was a way to challenge the hole. If you took the safe line you had a 20-yard longer shot into the green," Watson said of driving the ball at Kiawah. "So you had the option to go challenge the little hazard bunker things, or play away from them, where you knew you
would be safe.
"Here you have to drive it in exactly the right spot.
You have to choose your numbers, only a couple of holes do you have options. But you just, man, you got to be strong off the tee here to have a chance to hit it in the right place in the greens because the greens are severe and they have [been] really fast [Wednesday]."
Man Of Many Talents
It is hard enough getting into the U.S. Senior Open, but it's more difficult when you have to carry your own bag to do it.
Donnie Hammond showed up in Florence, S.C., thinking he would have no trouble finding a caddie for sectional qualifying. He was wrong.
So instead, he bought a small carry bag and hoofed it for 18 holes on his own. Not only did he qualify, but he also claimed medalist honors.
"I ended up shooting five under that day," Hammond said. "Which just shows a caddie mostly just gets in your way, I guess."
Alex Miceli is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on www.ussenioropen.com.