Lake Orion, Mich. – Lance Ten Broeck is surprised to be the U.S. Senior Open’s second-round leader.
He is not alone.
Ten Broeck, 56, who spends more time as a PGA Tour caddie than a player, shot a 2-under-par 68 at Indianwood Golf & Country Club on Friday afternoon and leads this 33rd championship at 6-under 134.
Ten Broeck moved into the lead when first-round leader Tom Kite’s game went mysteriously wayward on the same nine holes where he set a USGA Open championship record of 28 one day earlier. Kite shot an even-par 70 that included an outward nine of 4-over 39.
“I'm very surprised to be where I'm at,” said Ten Broeck, who was last a co-leader on the PGA Tour after 36 holes at the 1982 Hall of Fame Classic and whose best finish in 349 PGA Tour starts was second at the 1991 Chattanooga Classic. “When I came here, I knew I was playing pretty good in spite of having not really played much. But I figured I should be able to make the cut, but I never figured that I'd be in the last group on Saturday.”
In preparation for this week, Ten Broeck spent eight weeks carrying the bag for Tim Herron on the PGA Tour and one week playing at the Champions Tour’s Principal Charity Classic, where he tied for 71st.
Ten Broeck, who plays about 30 full rounds of golf per year, has been displeased with his putting through two rounds and on Friday he missed two more fairways than the first round.
Yet, on a leaderboard that features four major champions within two strokes of the lead – Kite, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin and Bernhard Langer –Ten Broeck’s name was an unlikely one at the top.
“It's the second round of a Senior U.S. Open,” said Kite, the 1992 U.S. Open champion. “You're always going to have a couple names that pop up there from time to time, and Lance is a good player. He hasn't been playing much, so I think it's a little bit of a surprise, but he's a talented guy.”
Saturday’s final grouping of Kite and Ten Broeck is a pairing of former University of Texas golfers. Kite was a first- or second-team All-American between 1970-72, while Ten Broeck was an All-American honorable mention in 1975-76.
“I played a bunch of golf with Lance when he was in Austin,” Kite said. “He's had so much talent for so many years and just, in a lot of people's minds, didn't take advantage of all the talent that he has. Obviously, he's playing very well right now. It will be good to watch him play.”
Watching Kite on his second nine – Indianwood’s outward nine – was somewhat shocking given how well he had played the first 27 holes. Kite went out in 4-under 35 to reach 9 under for the championship, two shots ahead of Ten Broeck.
Then Kite’s swing went awry. He missed seven fairways and seven greens as his lead slipped away. A bogey at the 355-yard, par-4 ninth dropped him a shot behind Ten Broeck.
“I just hit poor shots [on the second nine], and as we talked about yesterday, this golf course will give up some good scores and will give up some birdies,” Kite said. “But if you miss it, it will bite you in the rear. It bit me a couple times on the last nine holes.”
As for the 11-stroke difference on the same nine between Thursday and Friday?
“It's a sadistic game is what it is,” Kite said. “It really is. It drives us all crazy. As Harvey Penick said, ‘It's such an easy game to play, it's just such a hard game to play well.’ That's what we're trying to do.”
The opportunity to post a low red number and possibly overtake Kite presented itself to Friday morning’s second-round groupings.
Few players, however, took advantage.
As the afternoon groupings began teeing off in increasing heat and heavier winds, six players – Tom Lehman (4-under 66), John Huston (67), Roger Chapman (68), Dick Mast (68), Corey Pavin (69) and Bernhard Langer (70) – were in the clubhouse at 4-under-par 136.
While Jay Don Blake had the day’s best round, a 5-under 65 that included a U.S. Senior Open record-tying five straight birdies during an outward-nine 29 to reach 2-under 138, Lehman led the charge of the closest contenders.
Lehman, who was frustrated by closing out a first-round 70 with consecutive bogeys, turned in a five-birdie round that was flawed only by a bogey on the 470-yard, par-4 18th hole.
“I didn't feel good about my game yesterday,” said Lehman, who has tied for eighth, 12th and 23rd in the past three Senior Opens. “Didn't start out all that well today either, but kind of got into a groove and started hitting the ball much more solidly. Made a few putts. Kind of struggled a bit coming in the last couple, hit some lousy shots. But all in all, it was a good day.”
Jeff Sluman, Lehman’s playing partner, who shot 71 and is at 2-under 138, viewed Lehman’s round differently.
“He could have shot 62 or 63 easy,” Sluman said. “He played that solid. If he plays like that the next two days, you can start engraving [the Francis Ouimet Trophy].
“It was fun to watch him because he really just put the ball in the proper spot, drove it beautifully, just had his ball under control all day. And that's what it takes out here.”
Indianwood, hosting its first USGA championship since the 1994 U.S. Women’s Open, is being lauded as a fair, but biting test that is continually compared to a links-style course with, said Chapman, “humps and hillocks and wispy grass” and trees.
At points in their respective rounds, Fred Funk reached seven under par, Pavin six under and Lehman and Mast five under. But none could make the score stick. In the case of Funk, he played his final seven holes in five over.
Pavin attributes the bunched leaderboard to the course.
“It's a hard golf course,” he said. “I think typically or historically, what you see at USGA events and most major championships is you see fairly good scores the first round or second round, and then it starts getting more and more difficult. I'm not really sure exactly why, but maybe the course just plays harder and harder. It gets set up and gets a little firmer. Typically, that's what happens.
“The guy shoots four or five under the first round, and it's hard to follow it up again on a golf course like this. If you shoot even or something like that, it's still a very good score. So it's hard to continue on that pace.”
“With the severity of the course and the driving, I don't think anybody is really going to get away from us,” said Chapman.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA websites.