U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Simple Equation For Those in Pursuit of Title
August 14, 2016 | Columbus, Ohio
By Dave Shedloski
Of all the players within six strokes of the lead heading into the final round of the 37th U.S. Senior Open – pushed back to Monday after nearly 2 inches of rain pelted Scioto Country Club this weekend – only two have previously won the championship.
That’s not necessarily an advantage, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
Bernhard Langer, the 2010 winner, and defending champion Jeff Maggert are, respectively, five and six strokes behind leader Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is at 3-under 207 through 54 holes of the championship. Each man knows he is going to have to conjure something special to win again. How special is the question.
Can they go low enough to post a number that would beat not only Jimenez and Gene Sauers (2-under 208), but all the players in between? The course will be soft and receptive, so a low one will be out there. But the same conditions that favor them would also favor others.
"I'm in it, but it's a real long shot now,” said Maggert, who had not broken par this week and was tied for 13th at 3-over-par 213. “With the soft conditions, what are the scores going to be like? I would think that I need something very low to have a chance. Miguel is a great player and Gene has been playing well, so I don't expect them to back up when we are going to play a golf course as soft as this is going to be. I'm figuring I have to shoot 6-7 under to have any chance at all. It's possible, and I've got the mindset to just be as aggressive as I can and see what kind of number I can post."
Langer also was determined to give it a shot but wasn’t sure the math could work. He has improved his play each day, including a third-round 69, one of only four sub-par scores on Saturday.
“I’m still kicking myself for the 73 I shot on Thursday,” said the seven-time major winner in senior golf. “I have been trying to catch up ever since then. I’ve got to play just about a perfect round of golf. No mistakes. There’s a chance, but it’s not a great chance. I’m definitely going to go for it though. I might as well since I have to stay another day anyway.”
The largest comeback by a winner in the final round is nine strokes, orchestrated by Allen Doyle in the 2005 championship at NCR Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, when he fired a 63 to overtake co-leaders Craig Stadler and Loren Roberts. The next-best was achieved by Brad Bryant, who made up five shots on Tom Watson in 2007 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.
Langer and Maggert both eschewed hitting any golf balls on Sunday after play was postponed. Maggert left Scioto to finish his laundry, pack and figure out new travel plans. Langer headed to the practice putting green adjacent to the first tee, joined by Glen Day and Jesper Parnevik.
Langer was mostly disappointed to not play on Sunday because he has been on the road for eight straight weeks. “I’m ready to go home to see my family,” he said, “but that is out of my hands.”
Maggert, 52, cited fatigue for his decision to not practice. “I’m still mentally tired from the last two rounds,” he said. “We had a lot of wind plus the heat on Friday afternoon and yesterday was a struggle with the gusting wind. It was taxing. So I’m hoping that extra bit of rest gets me in the right frame of mind and ready to go first thing Monday.”
Langer said there is no strategy when pedal must be put to metal.
“It’s been done before,” Langer, 58, said of big comebacks in golf. “Whatever happens behind me, I have to play a great round of golf. It’s really that simple. The fairways are soft, the greens soft, so just go out and do it.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.