The Goal: Not To Get Blown Away


By Dave Shedloski
July 28, 2007

Kohler, Wis. - With only eight rounds under par Saturday in the 28 thU.S. Senior Open, golf's traditional moving day translated into an exercise in unleashing primal instincts.

Hopes were either preserved or dashed, depending on a player's ability to simply tread water on the difficult links-style layout along the shores of Lake Michigan. Keeping one's head above water, and his wits about him, meant that he still had a shot to win the most prestigious senior title in golf.

How much of a chance remains to be seen. When the dust settled - um, scratch that - with the winds increasing as the day wore on, the dust never settled. But as the sun began to set over the Straits Course at Whistling Straits, there were plenty of contenders for the title, but they all were chasing the clear favorite.

Tom Watson, he of the five British Open titles and two Senior British Open titles, thrives on links layouts, and he did just enough running in place to scratch out a three stroke lead after his 1-over-par 73 left him at 7-under 209, three ahead of Loren Roberts and four in front of three others - Sam Torrance, Vicente Fernandez and journeyman and sometime club pro John Ross. Watson must sleep on fescue at home because he seems so at peace on fescue-laden courses such as those found in Scotland - and at Whistling Straits.

Just 14 men remain under par and somewhat within the same zip code. Of course, not without a lot of expended energy, much trying, a few errors and a lot of scratching and clawing just to keep their hopes alive. In other words, a typical U.S. Open test, where par has value, both numerically and psychologically.

"Par is always going to mean something in a U.S. Open, and guys that did that are probably still around with a chance," D.A. Weibring said.

Only two of the eight sub-par scores were in the 60s and both were shot early in the day. David Eger bogeyed three of the final four for a 69. Denis Watson, who won the Senior PGA Championship two months ago, fired a bogey-free 67.

"There was no way to really attack this golf course [Saturday]," said Brad Bryant, who shot 71 with a bogey at the last to come in at 2-under 214. "It was just too tough. Staying around par is always a great score in the U.S. Open. It's what gives you chance, and at least I have a chance."

A chance is there because the forecast for Sunday is dry, hot and even more blustery. So it was crucial for the contenders to not blow themselves out off the leaderboard Saturday, as some did, like Curtis Strange, Lonnie Nielsen, Des Smyth, Donnie Hammond and Gil Morgan. Strange shot 79, Nielsen 77 and Smyth had 78. Hammond and Morgan shot 80s.

Tom Purtzer moved in both directions, getting to five under par and then giving back three shots in the last four holes for a 74 and 214 total.

"It was a very good test today, really good test of golf," said former Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, who fell back six shots after a 76. "You had to play some shots today. I just did the stupidest stuff; just eats at me. I played enough good golf today, but did some squirrely stuff."

That was going around.

"I'm a traditional golf course guy; I'm not a disaster golf course guy at all," Bob Gilder said after carding a well-earned 70 that featured the lone eagle on the par-5 16 thhole. "This is gimmicky stuff."

Gimmick or not, it's still the U.S. Senior Open, and the rules never change. Good, solid shots are a requirement in the national championship of any variety. Using your head doesn't hurt. Denis Watson got rolling once he got a bit of a slap in the face on the second hole and escaped with a par after hitting a wedge over the green.

"I was thinking, whip this in at the flag and let's get going, and I got a wake-up call," he said. "You can't just whip it in at the flag. This is a U.S. Open. I set about grinding my way, hit a couple of great shots when I needed to, and got away with a few. You have to have some slightly good breaks."

More than that, you have to tell yourself not to break. The players who did that Saturday can still catch Tom Watson. But with higher winds expected and the pressure of the Open upon them, it's likely to be a similar shootout to Saturday's fare.

Forget about going low. Just don't go high.

"If it's like this (Sunday)," Sam Torrance said, "it could get smelly. We best be ready for anything."

Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on www.ussenioropen.com.

 

 
Sam Torrance moved into contention with a 1-under 71 Saturday. (John Mummert/USGA)
Follow the USGA
Become a Facebook Fan of the USGAFollow us on Twitter @usopengolf
World Amateur Golf Ranking
WAGR Counting Event
Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
Chevron
   

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image
Rolex
   

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.



Rolex image
IBM
   

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image
Lexus
   

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express
   

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment


AmEx image