Low Scores 'There For The Taking'
By Dave Shedloski
Kohler, Wis. - The old pros who have seen it all in golf just can't seem to get comfortable with the Straits Course at Whistling Straits, the contrived Pete Dye links course skirting Lake Michigan and conventional U.S. Open strategic value. But early Friday in the 28
thU.S. Senior Open, comfort didn't seem all that important when cushy greens and calm breezes allowed participants to bathe their scorecards in birdies.
Heavy rains Thursday evening didn't defang Whistling Straits so much as they muzzled it for a brief period. And without its trusty body guard - Mr. Wind - the only whistling being done was by a collection of souls who were composing their own little symphonies.
Leader Tom Watson shot the championship's second 66. Ben Crenshaw rebounded from an opening double-bogey to card a 67, his third sub-70 score in his last four U.S. Senior Open rounds. Japan's Massy Kuramoto cured some bad mojo by following his opening 78 with a second-round 68. Ron Streck, Keith Fergus, Des Smyth and Joe Ozaki had 69s, as did Loren Roberts, who shot a 62 in last year's Senior Open.
The morning wave scoring average of 75.107 wasn't setting records or sinking the spirits of bathroom magnate Herb Kohler, course proprietor. But it was a stroke lower than the collective first-round performance of the 156-man field.
Seldom is this the case, but lucky was the man who had a 5 a.m. wake-up call.
"I don't ever want to say this course could ever play easy at all," said Crenshaw, a course designer and careful communicator. "But if there was a day to score, it might be this one, because it's a beautiful day. The greens were holding and you felt like you could get some opportunities."
"If you're driving the ball in the fairway, the greens are obviously holding. You can hit some good shots," said Roberts, one of the few players to have competed at Whistling Straits in the 2004 PGA Championship. "We really haven't had any tough wind here. If you don't have a lot of wind, you don't have to have done as much homework because you pretty much see what you get."
"The golf course played its easiest with the light wind and the wind from the direction it was coming from (east to southeast)," Watson said. "The golf course was there for the taking if you knew how to play it."
Ease of conditions did not put him at ease, however, even if he was leading the championship. And his score Friday belies what he knows or thinks he know about the layout.
"I'm unsure about this golf course," he said. "I've played five rounds on it and I still have questions of what club to hit off the tee, where to aim it off the tee. And it makes me a little unsure of my swing."
"You have wind and it puts a lot of questions in your mind, and even if you're striking it solid, there can be