U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Notebook: O’Meara Plays Through Pain; Irwin Surprises Himself June 25, 2015 | Sacramento, Calif. By Dave Shedloski

Mark O'Meara managed to post a 1-under 69 during Round 1 despite increasing pain in his right foot. (USGA/J.D. Cuban)

Talk about a good walk spoiled.

Mark O’Meara, who went to high school and college in California, is enjoying everything about his eighth appearance in the U.S. Senior Open, including his opening-round 1-under-par 69. What he’s not enjoying is the walk around Del Paso Country Club.

O’Meara, 58, of Houston, has been hobbled by a foot ailment that makes it painful for him to walk. He received a cortisone shot recently for what doctors believe is a strained ligament in his second toe on his right foot. He rested until the Constellation Senior Players Championship two weeks ago, but he had to withdraw when the pain became too much.

On a scale of 1-10, the pain he felt at Del Paso on Thursday was “about an 8.”

“It was around a 2 until I made the turn and then it became very difficult,” said O’Meara, the 1979 U.S. Amateur champion and two-time major champion. “It doesn’t hurt to swing, but it hurts to walk. You take 14,000 steps and that becomes an issue.”

O’Meara, runner-up in the 2011 Senior Open at Inverness Club, planned to visit the fitness trailer Thursday afternoon in hopes of finding a treatment that would allow him to keep playing. He said it would be a last-minute decision on whether he would show up for his 1:27 p.m. PDT tee time on Friday.

“I want to keep going because I’m playing well, but I have to think about if I am in danger of doing long-term damage,” he said.

Irwin Pleased, Surprised by Even-Par Showing

Two-time U.S. Senior Open champion Hale Irwin, who has also won three U.S. Opens, had no complaints after tying his age in the first round of the Senior Open Thursday at Del Paso Country Club, posting an even-par 70 just 22 days after his 70th birthday.

He also had no explanation for it.

What was working for him?

“Nothing,” he deadpanned. “Well, I'm trying to gather what was working because it was kind of a labor out there. I have not been nor did I today play particularly well. I hit enough good shots to have some opportunities. I hit enough bad shots to take away those opportunities. I had mentioned yesterday, if I could post four 70s, I would be very happy with that. Probably would not win, but it would be a good, achievable score for me. So I'm one leg of the quadruple crown there.”

Competing in his 20th Senior Open, Irwin said the key was making a few timely putts. He needed just 27 on the day. “There's plenty of room for improvement, but at the same time, I can't complain about the score,” he said. “That's ultimately what we're trying to get is the score.”

Asked if there was a portion of the course that was easier to attack, Irwin joked: “No. I think the course is after me. I'm running scared. I got that 18-hole monster chasing me.”

Delsing Shoots 74 Day After Hospital Stay

Jay Delsing’s 4-over-par 74 on Thursday wasn’t the debut round he hoped for in the U.S. Senior Open, but under the circumstances, it was better than he expected.

Delsing, 54, of St. Louis, teed it up without the benefit of a practice round because he had spent most of the three previous days in the hospital after suffering an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. He began taking it for an infected cut on his left middle finger last week while working as an on-course reporter for Fox at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

Delsing said he started to feel poorly as last week wore on, but he thought that was simply the result of walking up to 36 holes per day on the hilly course. But on Monday he awoke with a rash over most of his body, and his finger swollen to three times its normal size. He thought about going to an urgent care facility, but after talking with a physician friend in New Orleans, he went straight from the airport to Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, where he was treated with medication and fluids. He wasn’t discharged until 3 p.m. Wednesday.

“I was just happy I could play,” said Delsing after a round that included five bogeys and one birdie. “I was saying, ‘Please let me out.’ I wanted to play so badly, and the doctors and nurses at the hospital were just terrific and really did all they could to help make sure I could play.”

Delsing heads back out for the second round at 7:10 a.m. PDT Friday, and then plans to resume his on-course reporter role for Fox in the afternoon.  

“I hit it OK. I hit some stinkers but made some nice pars. I also messed up a few easy shots,” he said. “Actually was very happy overall. No complaints. It’s just golf. I’m happy to go put my feet up and then go play and work TV tomorrow again.”

Hart Saving His Best Golf for Senior Majors

Jeff Hart never posted a top-10 finish in his stop-and-go PGA Tour career, but already this year on the Champions Tour he has two top 10s – and both have come in senior majors.

A third top 10 could be in the offing if Hart, 55, of Solano Beach, Calif., continues his fine play in the U.S. Senior Open. He opened with a 3-under-par 67, just one stroke behind leader Tom Watson. Earlier this year, Hart tied for third in the Regions Tradition and tied for seventh two weeks ago in the Constellation Senior Players Championship.

“I don't have a secret. I wish I did. I'd write a book and make millions, but I don't know,” said Hart, whose best finish in five Senior Open starts is joint 14th in 2013. “I think here, the rough being what it is, fairways are certainly a premium. You need to get it in the fairway, I think, and that's my forte. I don't hit it very far. I think that helps. In some of the majors, they grow the rough a little bit higher, and I think that probably helps me.”

Amateur Ryan Slows After Birdieing First Three Holes

Amateur golfers continue to prove how competitive they are in USGA championships. The latest example is Dave Ryan of Taylorville, Ill.

For the second consecutive week, an amateur topped the leader board in a national championship. Last week, it was Brian Campbell, another Illinois product, who briefly tied for the lead in the second round of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

On Thursday, it was Ryan in the U.S. Senior Open after he birdied the first three holes at Del Paso Country Club.

“It was pretty fun while it lasted,” said Ryan, 61, who couldn’t keep the surge going but still posted a 3-over 73, his best round in three U.S. Senior Open appearances. “I got off to a hot start and then I caught the bogey train and I couldn’t get off. You miss a few fairways and it’s hard to make pars. That’s where I lost my mojo.”

Starting his day on the 10th hole, Ryan, a sectional qualifier, converted putts of 15 and 4 feet on his first and third holes. Sandwiched between those putts was a chip-in birdie on the par-4 11th from 8 feet off the green after he got a free drop from a sprinkler head.

Things became significantly more difficult when he started missing fairways. He only hit six on the day, and he paid the price. But he found it hard to be disappointed.

“Playing against these guys on this golf course, I’m happy,” he said. “And I birdied the last hole to make my lunch taste better.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work regularly appears on USGA websites. 

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