Billy Andrade and Lee Janzen have known each other for three decades, from their amateur days in the mid-1980s to many years competing on the PGA Tour and more recently on the Champions Tour.
They have played together plenty in that span, but Sunday’s round in the 36th U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club will stand out.
Teeing off at 10:25 a.m. PDT, two hours before the final grouping, Andrade trailed 54-hole co-leaders Bernhard Langer and Jeff Maggert by six strokes. Janzen started the final round five back.
The two then did their best to stir things up.
Andrade shot a 7-under 63, tying the second-lowest round in USGA Open – U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open – history. Janzen, putting on a charge reminiscent of his final round at The Olympic Club in the 1998 U.S. Open when he rallied from five strokes back to win his second national championship, shot 64.
Each climbed into a tie for fifth place, four strokes behind winner Jeff Maggert.
“It was a fabulous day,” said Andrade. “We kind of fed off each other. We were going back and forth, making birdies, not making mistakes, getting it up and down. It was just a wonderful round, and it was nice not to screw up.”
Andrade, who made par on the last four holes, was referencing a poor conclusion to his second round, when he made double bogeys on Nos. 15 and 18.
“I lost this tournament on Friday,” said Andrade. “That’s the game, and that’s how hard the finishing holes are here. That’s something I didn’t want to do today.”
Janzen bogeyed the par-4 16th hole Sunday to put a blemish on his scorecard, but was hardly disappointed with the day.
“Invariably, when you get a hot round going and you’re moving up the leader board on Sunday, so many things have to happen for it to be a perfect day,” he said. “A bogey looks like the end of the world, but 16 is a really good hole.”
For Andrade, his 72-hole total was 32 strokes lower than his U.S. Senior Open debut last year at Oak Tree National.
“I love Del Paso,” Andrade said.
There are at least 63 reasons why.
McCoy Earns Low-Amateur Honors in Consecutive Years
Mike McCoy has enjoyed a decorated amateur career, and he added another distinction to his record Sunday by earning low-amateur honors in the U.S. Senior Open for the second consecutive year.
McCoy, 52, of Des Moines, Iowa, closed with a 1-under 69 at Del Paso Country Club to finish tied for 26th at 2-over 282, matching the lowest 72-hole score by an amateur in the Senior Open, initially set by Tim Jackson at Crooked Stick Golf Club in 2009.
“It’s just something about USGA championships,” said McCoy, the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who was playing in his 42nd USGA championship. “I like the conditions and the way the golf courses are set up. It’s easy to get prepared and motivated to play. I just seem to play my best these weeks.”
An 11-time Iowa Golf Association Player of the Year, the insurance executive also tied for 26th in his U.S. Senior Open debut last year at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla. Being the low amateur earns an exemption into the championship the following year.
“Insurance is still my profession. Golf is still my passion,” McCoy said. “No illusions – [the professionals] do it a little better. It’s an honor to play well in this quality of company. These are guys you’ve admired your whole career, they’ve done so much. I’m glad that there’s room for the amateur in this championship. I hope to play in a few more of them.”
Two other amateurs made the 36-hole cut. Dave Finster, of St. Petersburg, Fla., shot a final-round 73 to finish 71st at 297. Dave Ryan, of Taylorville, Ill., closed with an 81 to finish 72nd at 300.
Watson Previews British Open Farewell at St. Andrews
Closing with a 1-under 69 to tie for seventh place at 5-under 275, Tom Watson left the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club encouraged about his game and his prospects in his British Open farewell next month at St. Andrews.
“The driving, the putting, the short game is good,” said Watson, who recorded his eighth top-10 finish in 14 Senior Open appearances. “It’s the best, by far [driving week], I’ve had in several years. I drove the ball beautifully. I’ve got a lot of positives looking forward to the [British] Open.”
Watson, 65, a three-time runner-up in the championship, started the final round one stroke off the lead and birdied the par-5 first hole. However, bogeys on the third and sixth holes, put him too far back.
“I thought 6 or 7 under par, something like that, would be right there, but these guys had different thoughts,” said Watson. “They lit it up.”
The only weak spot in Watson’s play was inconsistent middle and long irons, which he traced to being too steep on the takeaway and letting his weight go to the outside of his right foot on his backswing.
“My iron game’s got to be more than decent, it’s got to be in good shape,” he said, anticipating the Old Course at St. Andrews. “If I get the iron game in good shape and I’m putting well, I give myself a fair chance to at least make the cut and to do well there.”
The five-time British Open winner will certainly be able to use putts like the 33-footer for birdie he holed to loud applause on the 18th on Sunday – the second straight day he sank a long one on the hole.
“You’re going to have a lot of long putts,” Watson said. “It’s imperative that week to have really good speed with your putts, good weight, and keep it out of the bunkers. The bunkers are death. If you add strong wind in there, that’s a tough golf course to handle.”
Like many, Watson will be watching to see if U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth can win the third leg of the Grand Slam. “I like his fire. I like his grit,” Watson said of the 21-year-old. “I like the way he thinks.”
That could easily describe a five-time champion who won his first Claret Jug 40 years ago.
Lancaster’s Line-Drive Ace Damages Second Hole
Aces aren’t commonplace, even among elite golfers, but what happened after a hole-in-one early Sunday morning in the U.S. Senior Open was exceptionally rare.
Neal Lancaster used a 7-iron on the 168-yard second hole at Del Paso Country Club. “As soon as I hit it, [my caddie] said, ‘Be the right club,’” Lancaster said. “It flew right in the front, right in the hole. We couldn’t believe it stayed in.”
Neither could playing partner Scott Simpson. “You could hear it,” Simpson said. “Sometimes, they hit in the hole like that and they fly off the green.”
Lancaster’s ball stayed in, damaging the front of the cup to such an extent that instead of repairing it, officials cut a new hole about 2 feet away.
“This was somewhat unusual, but the Rules provide for it under Rule 33-2b,” said Jeff Hall, the USGA’s managing director of Rules and Competitions. “We moved the hole less than a pace from the original hole location.”
“I’ve only seen it happen a couple of times on tour,” Simpson said. “It actually wasn’t damaged that badly, but happening in one of the first groups out, it was a good move to change it.”
Lancaster, 52, of Smithfield, N.C., owns a share of the nine-hole U.S. Open scoring record with 29s shot in the 1995 and 1996 championships. He shot a closing 3-under 67 on Sunday to finish his first U.S. Senior Open at 3-over 283.
“I was 6 over on the par 3s this week until the ace,” Lancaster said. “There were probably 60 people [on No. 2]. I announced to them: ‘You can all go home now. You’ve seen the best. No need to stay now.’”
Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.