U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Round 4: Five Things to Watch For July 2, 2017 | PEABODY, Mass. By Dave Shedloski

Players and caddies have been working together to find ways to navigate the challenging greens at Salem Country Club. (USGA/Joel Kowsky)

U.S. Senior Open Home

Now that we have a new 54-hole scoring record to go with many of the other marks we’ve witnessed this week, why not watch the 38th U.S. Senior Open Championship capped off in style?

Kirk Triplett is going for the wire-to-wire victory today after completing 54 holes at Salem Country Club in 195 strokes, eclipsing Olin Brown’s standard of 198 in 2011 at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. Normally, he might feel comfortable with such a score, but Kenny Perry, the 2013 champion, is just a stroke behind after also besting Browne’s mark.

Yes, it looks like a two-man race, what with Brandt Jobe a distant third, six back, despite a sterling 8-under 62 on Saturday, which made him the second player of the week to tie the USGA record for all Open championships. But there’s plenty to keep track of over the final 18 holes. For one thing, neither of the 54-hole leaders in this year’s previous two senior major championships triumphed, as Bernhard Langer rallied in both.

Here’s what to watch for in the final round:

  • Records: It will take a strong round by either Triplett or Perry to break Fred Funk’s 72-hole scoring record of 20-under in the 2009 championship at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind. But the aggregate scoring record of 267 that Hale Irwin set in 2000 on the Old Course at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa., in 2000 and Perry matched at Omaha in ’13, is certainly going to fall. Either Triplett or Perry could shoot par and break the mark.
  • Bitter pill: In all likelihood, yet one more record is in danger. The mark for lowest score by a non-winner over 72 holes is Bruce Fleisher, whose 14-under 270 effort at Saucon Valley left him three behind Irwin. Barring a total collapse, today’s runner-up finisher is going to go home with a dubious mark as well as disappointment.
  • Brandt Jobe: Just about the only spoiler to the final twosome is the former Japan Tour player, who won his first PGA Tour Champions title a few weeks ago at the Principal Charity Classic. Jobe, 51, begins today six behind, which is not outside the realm of possibility, though he will likely need another super low round. Guess who ranks among the leaders in birdie average this year? Yep, Jobe. Among players on the leader board, only Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman rank higher. Sure, those back-to-back low rounds are difficult to achieve, as we see regularly, but that is precisely the task ahead of Jobe, who tied his career low round with Saturday's performance.
  • Green speeds: Rainstorms have taken the fire out of Salem’s pernicious putting surfaces, enabling the low scoring. But if the greens speed up only slightly, it will change the complexion of the final round by several factors. Approach shots won’t likely be as close to the hole and those nervy 3-, 4- and 5-footers will be more fearsome. Mix in final-round nerves and you have a recipe for potential drama.
  • Steve Flesch: The only full-time golf broadcaster to make the cut, Flesch is playing in just his fourth event since turning 50 in May, and he enters the final round tied for seventh thanks to a third-round 65, his lowest round on any tour since 2013 at Colonial. Winner of four PGA Tour titles, the left-hander was exempt via his top-50 status on the PGA Tour all-time money list. A decent finish today will likely be good enough for the top 15, which would earn him an exemption into the 2018 championship at The Broadmoor and another year of not working the event for Fox Sports.
     

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to USGA websites.