U.S. SENIOR OPEN
2017 Runner-up Triplett Seeks Mountain Success June 25, 2018 | Colorado Springs, Colo. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Kirk Triplett fell just short of capturing the 2017 U.S. Senior Open title, settling for a runner-up finish. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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Although he was disappointed to finish as the runner-up to Kenny Perry in last year’s U.S. Senior Open, Kirk Triplett was also realistic about the outcome.

“I would have liked to win,” said Triplett on Monday after 13 holes of practice on The Broadmoor’s East Course, where the 39th U.S. Senior Open is taking place this week. “I would have loved to have been competing at Shinnecock Hills last week as the U.S. Senior Open champion, but it was really exciting to be in contention and I was pretty proud to be second to Kenny, who I’ve played with a lot and is a great competitor.”

Triplett had blitzed the Salem Country Club course with a U.S. Senior Open record-tying round of 62 in Round 1 last year, following it up with rounds of 67-66 to take a one-stroke lead into the final round before Perry took control. Triplett took the fight to the final hole on Sunday before settling for his best finish in a USGA championship, the previous best being a tie for seventh in the 2001 U.S. Open.

“It hadn’t been a great year for me up to that point, so it was really important to play well in the event that offers our biggest purse,” said Triplett, 56. “It helped secure my place in the top 30 for the year. And to tell the truth, even that week at Salem, I wasn’t playing my best, but I was really scoring well.”

As he enters this U.S. Senior Open, Triplett can point to a 2018 victory, albeit a shared one. He teamed with Paul Broadhurst in mid-April to win the Bass Pro Shop Legends of Golf, with Triplett sealing the win by holing a bunker shot on the first playoff hole against 2010 Senior Open champion Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman. And Triplett can also point to a busy recent social calendar – thanks to his children’s accomplishments.

“I’ve had two college graduations and one high school graduation in the last six weeks, so I’ve missed a few tournaments,” said Triplett, whose twin sons graduated from Northwestern (Sam, a second-team Big 10 golfer) and Notre Dame (Conor, a mechanical engineering major), while daughter Alexis graduated from high school in Montana. “I think I’m going to be a little rusty, but I don’t want to admit to that.”

Triplett had never seen The Broadmoor before playing Monday, but he is no stranger to mountain golf.

“You need to hit the fairways, but there’s room to drive the ball here,” said Triplett of the East Course, a combination of holes by Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones Sr. “To me, it’s a lag-putting kind of course. The greens are ‘slopey’ enough, I suspect, that later in the week, you might hit an 8-iron that lands about 15 or 20 feet away, but by the time it takes the slope, you could end up with a 50- or 60-foot putt.

“I think that’s probably going to be the difficulty that most of us face during the week,” Triplett continued, “because it’s really hard to get approach shots into that 15- or 20-foot circle. It’s my guess that as the course dries out, it won’t play terribly long, but it will be very demanding around the greens.”

Triplett compared the course to a couple of Jack Nicklaus designs in the region: Castle Pines Golf Club, which hosted a PGA Tour event, The International, from 1986-2006, as well as to Montreux Golf & Country Club, which also hosted a PGA Tour event, as well as a college tournament that Triplett won while at the University of Nevada.

“I’ve always enjoyed mountain golf,” said Triplett,” although it seems to me that you’re either on or you’re off, more than other kinds of golf. When you’re on, you’re really booming your irons and you feel great, but when you’re off, you’re wondering, how can all these other guys hit it so far?”

Triplett is hoping to be on when Thursday morning rolls around.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.