Toledo, Ohio – Club professional Jeff Roth might seem out of place on the leaderboard at the U.S. Senior Open, trying to contend with the contingent of lifetime touring professionals.
Roth, however, acts like he’s been there before –because he has.
A former winner of the PGA National Professional Championship, Roth, 53, is tied for seventh with two-time U.S. Senior Open winner Hale Irwin and 2009 Senior PGA champion Michael Allen at 7-under 206. Though he suffered two late bogeys, Roth carded a 3-under 68 Saturday at Inverness Club and will begin the final round eight strokes behind leader Olin Browne.
Last year in his U.S. Senior Open debut, Roth fired a second-round 66, earning a Saturday pairing with eventual winner Bernhard Langer.
Last year I was in this position playing with Bernhard in the last group of the third round and really probably the situation was a little overwhelming, said Roth Saturday. But today I kind of drew from that. I've won a lot of golf tournaments, but I think pressure is pressure. That's the way I see it. It just depends on how you want to manage it. If you want to think you're on the big stage, you're going to be overwhelmed.
Roth now works out of San Juan Country Club in Farmington, N.M., but he had plenty of fans in attendance at Inverness. He worked for years as a club pro in Michigan, where he was a four-time PGA Player of the Year in his section.
He has an outside chance at best Sunday, but he learned a lot last year at Sahalee Country Club, where he finished 17th.
The interesting thing about it is I really don't feel any pressure, any nervousness, which is great because now I can go out and play right from the get‑go instead of working into the round, Roth said. I've had enough experience and I'm getting to that point in my career where, even though I haven't won any Tour event, I've kind of ‘been there, done that’ on my level. So I'm just playing golf.
Good golf at that.
Former PGA champion Jeff Sluman was one of Saturday’s biggest movers, thanks to a 6-under-par 65 that elevated him into a tie for third place at 9-under 204.
To say it was an improvement over his previous tour of Inverness is not a stretch.
I had 18 pars [on Friday], so I just wanted to make one birdie, which I got that done quickly on No. 2, Sluman said. I had a lot of good shots today, a lot of them very close to the pin, and I got myself at least somewhere in contention. Olin's playing great, obviously, and I'm at 9 … I'm going to have to play a similar type round tomorrow. But at least I've got the opportunity.
Bloody Nose Holes
The reconfigured Inverness course was expected to give the field trouble in the closing stretch with a series of tough par-4s and the longest par-3 on the course at nearly 230 yards.
Joey Sindelar referred to holes 13-16 as the bloody-nose holes. He was, well, right on the nose with that assessment.
Those four holes, switched from the front side to the back for this week’s championship, represent four of the five toughest on the course with the 460-yard par-4 13th hole playing the most difficult; the field is averaging 4.418 for the week and it has given up just 17 birdies, tied for fewest with the 476-yard 16th hole, which is the third-most difficult at 4.395.
The par-4 14th, 445 yards, ranks the second-most exacting with players collectively .408 strokes over par. Finally, the par-3 15th is fifth overall at .295 over par.
The longest par 4 on the course, the 480-yard fifth hole, is the lone front-nine terror, ranking fourth at 4.369.