Toledo, Ohio - John Cook was furious. Steve Schaff was ecstatic.
The players with Toledo ties were paired together for the opening 36 holes of the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club, and afterward they were clearly divergent in their perspectives.
Horrible, terrible, pitiful, disgusted, embarrassed. That’s it, said Cook, who was born in Toledo, after a 4-over-par 75 placed him near the cutline that would not be determined until the conclusion of second-round play on Saturday morning. I thought poorly … it was just awful, an awful two rounds of play. I’m highly, highly disappointed.
Schaff, who attended the University of Toledo in the late 1970s and won the 1979 Toledo Open, got into the championship as an alternate when Scott Hoch withdrew. He posted successive 78s.
Day two of the dream, said Schaff, 54, of Gainesville, Fla. I really wish I could have played better, but you know, when you get in these conditions, it's tough.
But it was great. Didn't score great, but this was an experience of a lifetime for sure.
After a moment of reflection, Cook said that the absence of a major among his combined 19 PGA and Champions Tour titles, along with playing in front of his native Ohio fans, caused him to try too hard.
In 18 Champions Tour major starts, Cook has seven top-10 finishes. He also had seven top-10 major finishes during his career on the PGA Tour.
My major record is not very good; I put extra pressure on myself, said Cook, 53. I’m just disgusted with myself.
Cook likely will have other opportunities to win a major, but for Schaff, this will suffice as his major win, particularly after he earned his position as an alternate into the championship by playing his final four holes of qualifying in five-under par: birdie-ace-birdie-birdie.
The people here at my home, the reception, just the love I felt from all the friends that I've had and people that I've worked for and worked with over the years here, said Schaff, when asked what he may recall 10 years from now. It's really hard to describe. I love to write and I love to talk to my friends, but I really don't have words to describe the experience I've had. It's going to take some time to sink in. But it's amazing.
Because second-round play was suspended by darkness -- caused by the early-morning weather delay of 2 hours, 45 minutes -- the number of players making the cut of low 60 and ties was not yet set. The 10-shot rule is a nonfactor with Olin Browne at 9-under 133 and 61 players at two over or better.
Still, several players of note were certain to not be around for the weekend, including former U.S. Senior Open winners Peter Jacobsen, Bruce Fleisher and Dave Eichelberger, and former U.S. Open champions Fuzzy Zoeller and Jerry Pate.
Among the survivors included two 60-year-olds: two-time Senior Open champ Hale Irwin, 66, who won one of his three U.S. Opens here at Inverness in 1979; and 1983 U.S. Open champion Larry Nelson, 63. Also remaining for two more days are record-setting 2009 Senior Open champion Fred Funk, and Bob Tway, who captured the 1987 PGA Championship at Inverness.
Mark Calcavecchia figured he had Inverness Club’s greens figured out Friday afternoon when he left putts on his first two holes short.
Then the [third hole], if it wouldn't have hit the hole, it was going 6 feet by, so it took a little while to figure out, said Calcavecchia, who needed just 23 putts in a second-round 67 that put him at 7-under 135 for the championship.
The speed – or lack thereof – of the greens was a topic of conversation for many players as they finished their rounds. Two days of heavy moisture had the greens rolling slower than players are generally accustomed to at USGA championships.
Most of the putts missed have been short, I think, for me anyway, said Jay Haas, who posted a second-round 69. But the course is still pretty difficult. They haven't played it at the full length, which is kind of nice.
I'm still surprised that the scores are as good as they are. I don't think this is an easy golf course. I think the greens are difficult to read, difficult to putt, and they're not very big.
The belief of several players is that the greens will not reach a breakneck speed on the weekend, only because there are fewer hole location options on the smallish greens.
That, however, does not make Inverness any more docile.
I thought [the course] played easier today, said Corey Pavin, who shot 69. I thought the pins were definitely harder today, so maybe they balanced out. I thought the pin placements were much more difficult today.
Co-leader Olin Browne had a slightly different perspective.
It's playing a lot longer, he said. Greens are really soft. Pins are in entirely different locations. They're much tighter to the corner of the greens and the edges. So an errant shot yesterday would leave you a 15‑, 18-footer, and today it might leave you a 35‑foot chip shot.
Scott Simpson won the 1987 U.S. Open in an epic duel against Tom Watson at The Olympic Club, but it’s his play at another famous California course for which he is most famous. Actually, more than his play, it was his playing partner.
Simpson for many years partnered with actor and comedian Bill Murray at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and it was Simpson’s easy-going demeanor that meshed perfectly with Murray’s high-energy antics. They also played some fine golf together, though Murray did not realize the holy grail of pro-am golf until he teamed with D.A. Points to win this year’s team title at Pebble.
He’s going to dine out on that for the rest of his life, Simpson said.
Speaking of dining, Simpson and Murray are still good friends, and they shared dinner last week in England while Simpson was competing in the Senior British Open at Walton Heath. Murray was abroad working on the film, Hyde Park on Hudson, in which he portrays former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
So, what’s dinner with Bill Murray like?
It can be normal or it can be crazy. This one was pretty normal, said Simpson, who brought along fellow players Jeff Sluman and Jay Haas. We were just catching up. But you know that no matter what, you’re going to have a good time, and you’re going to laugh a lot. He’s good company no matter what you’re doing.
Man Without A Tour
Trevor Dodds is a man without a tour at the moment, amazing for someone who has held memberships on seven different pro tours in his career.
I have some status on the Champions Tour; I'm just not getting into tournaments, said Dodds, who finished tied for 12th at the qualifying tournament and has conditional status. So, yeah, I'm just chasing the Tour. That's all I'm going to do. I guess I'm playing mostly majors now because I'm getting into all of those.
Dodds, 51, a native of Namibia, shot a 2-under 69 Friday and is in the hunt at 5-under 137 midway through the Senior Open. He is playing in just his fourth Champions Tour event of the year, but three of them, including this week, have been majors. He has been trying to Monday-qualify into other events, but hasn’t been successful. Still, he has kept his game in good shape.
You've got to be resilient in this game, he said. For us to be playing as long as we have, you've got to be pretty tough-minded and resilient. You're going to be knocked down, but you have to be prepared to stand up and chase it again.