EDMOND, Okla. – Wes Short Jr. has struggled with back
problems for several years in his professional golf career. On Saturday in the
third round of the U.S. Senior Open, back issues flared up in a major way when
he hit his tee shot on the second hole.
At one point, Short received treatment from a physical
therapist between holes, as the Rules allow, but he struggled noticeably the
rest of the day, dropping to his knees at times when the spasms overtook him.
He relied first on fellow competitor Vijay Singh, then on his caddie, Michael
Harwood, to help him with marking his ball and retrieving it from the hole.
“The physio folks came out a couple of times and said they
didn’t think I could damage it any further, so I continued to play,” said
Short, of Austin, Texas, who turned 50 last December and had one victory in his
PGA Tour career, the 2005 Michelin Championship at Las Vegas. “I was just
hoping I could get to the 18th and maybe get some help. Maybe I could stay in
Short carded a 5-over 76, making six bogeys and one birdie
in a remarkable effort, considering the circumstances, good enough for a tie
for 18th place after three rounds. He is scheduled to start Round 4 at 11:10
a.m. Sunday with Tom Byrum, if he is able to continue in the championship.
“It’s not a new thing – it first came up yesterday,” said
Harwood, of England, who has caddied for Short “off and on” for five years.
“Hopefully, it’s not the same issue that came up before; he was out of golf for
six years before coming back last year.”
Short has competed in 11 events on the Champions Tour this
year, with his best finish a tie for 10th in the Allianz Championship. He is
43rd on the Tour money list.
“It was my first USGA [championship] and I wanted to try to
finish,” said Short. “I thought Vijay was great. I hope I didn’t mess him up
because I was going slow and it was painful.”
Rollercoaster Ride Continues
The up-and-down road that Marco Dawson traveled during the
first two rounds continued in the third round at Oak Tree National.
Dawson followed an opening 5-under 66 with a 5-over 76 to
drop off the pace, but in the third round Saturday – moving day at steamy Oak
Tree, he did a lot of moving, chugging up the leader board again before giving
strokes back at the end. Dawson carded a 2-under 69, but he got to 5-under and
into a share of the lead before bogeys on the final three holes.
More From The U.S. Senior Open: Oak Tree Gang Enjoys Home Game
"Just a continuation of yesterday's round, I
guess," said Dawson, 50, playing in just his seventh Champions Tour event.
"Heaven forbid you miss a fairway because chances are something bad is
going to happen."
Tied for fifth with major winners Vijay Singh and Jeff
Sluman, who won the 1988 PGA here at Oak Tree, Dawson made six birdies in a
nine-hole stretch starting at the par-5 seventh to get to 5 under for the day
and the championship. But finding rough and a few greenside bunkers made for
tough par saves on the way in. Nevertheless, he wasn't despondent.
"I played well. Even though I was only 2 under, I had
it to 5 and, you know, could have been a couple shots better," Dawson
said. "I think anytime you can afford almost – afford to lose shots you're
in a good position."
Wilson, McCoy Aim For
When Jeff Wilson and Mike McCoy tee it up on Sunday, there
will be a lot more at stake than one might expect. The duo, who sit at 6 over
and 7 over, respectively, were the lone amateurs to make the 36-hole cut at Oak
Tree National, and will vie for the coveted low-amateur medal.
The number of amateurs making the Senior Open cut has
steadily decreased through the years. In the inaugural championship, which took
place in 1980, 16 amateurs made the cut. 2014 marks the fourth straight time,
and eighth time since 2002, that two or fewer amateurs advanced to weekend
The low amateur also earns an exemption into next year’s Senior
Open, as well as this year’s U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur.
Both Wilson and McCoy have seen success in USGA
championships, as McCoy is the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and Wilson
was the low amateur in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. They know each other
well, and, in addition to trying to climb the leader board, there will be a private
competition as well.
“We probably had that before the cut,” said Wilson, who made
his Senior Open debut in 2013. “I think [McCoy] has probably got the best of me
more than I've got of him. But, you know, he's a good player.”
McCoy, for his part, won’t be paying a whole lot of
attention to where he stands in comparison to Wilson during his final round.
“We've played a lot of golf together,” said McCoy, also
competing in his second Senior Open. “He's a great guy, good friend. I'm sure
we'll both be trying hard.”
Hole 7 Provides Rare Scoring
U.S. Senior Open competitors looking to pick up a shot at
Oak Tree National won’t find many ready-made options, with only one hole playing
under par for the championship. Through three rounds, the 511-yard, par-5
seventh hole has played to a stroke average of 4.95, and has become
increasingly friendly as the week has gone along. After playing comfortably
over par during Thursday’s first round (5.20), the field has taken advantage of
the hole since then, recording 30 birdies or better on Saturday, against just
seven bogeys or worse.
Of the 10 eagles recorded during the championship so far,
nine of them have come at No. 7, and have helped to buoy a pair of players’ chances.
Jeff Sluman, who will enter the final round tied for fifth, made an eagle-3 there
on Friday, as did Gene Sauers, who is atop the leader board.
Ron Driscoll is the
manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Scott Lipsky and Dave Shedloski
contributed to this report.