Colin Montgomerie has a chance to make history Sunday at Del Paso Country Club. But he knows he’ll need to play better than he did in Saturday’s third round of the U.S. Senior Open.
After holding a share of the lead at 6 under par at the start of his inward nine, Montgomerie, 52, of Scotland, backed up and carded a disappointing even-par 70. That left him in an eight-way tie for third at 4-under 206 heading into the final round, one behind Bernhard Langer and Jeff Maggert.
That still gives Montgomerie a chance to successfully defend his U.S. Senior Open title, a feat last accomplished by Allen Doyle in 2006. What’s more, should he win, he would become the first player in senior major history to win both the U.S. Senior Open and Senior PGA Championship in consecutive years.
Montgomerie won his second straight Senior PGA last month at French Lick Resort.
That’s quite the double-double.
Even though he’s only one stroke out of the lead, Montgomerie couldn’t hide his disappointment.
“I didn't play very well today. A couple of mistakes late, on 12 and 13, the bogeys there,” he said. “I didn't hit the fairways enough. You don’t hit the fairways, you’re not going to score. But still in there. Still in there with a chance, you know. It was very difficult. No one's run away with it.”
Montgomerie was in a similar situation last year at Oak Tree National, shooting a third-round 74 to fall four behind before a closing 69 earned him a tie with Gene Sauers. Montgomerie emerged with the Francis Ouimet Trophy after winning a three-hole aggregate playoff.
Dunlap Looks to Avoid Last Year’s Pitfalls
Scott Dunlap finds himself in familiar territory heading into the final round of the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club. After a 2-under 68 on Saturday, he is one of eight players only a stroke behind co-leaders Bernhard Langer and Jeff Maggert.
Last year, Dunlap was in second place after 54 holes, three shots behind Gene Sauers and ended up tied for ninth after a closing 77. So he’s actually closer to the lead this year. The question is, what did he learn from last year’s experience that could help him come out on top this time?
“Last year, I just got on that bogey train,” said Dunlap. “In golf like this, you've got to have some break… because the way the golf course is set up, once it goes the wrong way, if you don't do something to stop it, it's just going to be bogeys to the end. So I didn't – for about seven holes last year, I was off in the wilderness. I guess this year, so far, when I've had a bad stretch, it's been minimal damage, come back with a birdie.”
Dunlap earned Champions Tour Rookie of the Year honors last year with a win and two second-place finishes in a four-week stretch. But a senior major would mean a lot more to the journeyman pro from Pittsburgh.
“I finally won one of these Tour events last year. So the next thing on any sort of agenda or box to tick would be a major, sure,” he said. “Always, I've just wanted to compete and play like I think I can play. Last year, I played winning golf three times and won once. So, I understand you can play winning golf, someone can beat you. But you also got to be honest. Did you actually play well enough to win? In a major, I've never done that.”
With Infant Keeping Him Awake, Rocco Contending Anyway
Rocco Mediate forged a share of the third-round lead at 5 under par after birdies on five of his first 11 holes to offset an early double bogey. Then he ran out of gas and had to settle for an even-par 70. He can forgive himself, however.
Mediate hasn’t been getting much sleep lately, but he has a good excuse. On May 8, he and his wife, Jessica, welcomed Francesca Rose into the world, Mediate’s fourth child.
“It’s absolutely the best thing. It’s the greatest thing in the world,” said Mediate, 52, of Naples, Fla. “I didn’t want to leave, but it was time to go back to work. But I’m tired. I’ve been working to get ready, and I put in a lot of time last week.”
Mediate admitted he didn’t know what kind of game he was bringing to the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club, but he was hopeful of being in contention after 54 holes. And that’s where he is, just three strokes back at 2-under 208.
“I played pretty good today for the most part,” he said. “A couple of bad tee shots cost you here, and that's just how it is. You're going to do that here. You're going to miss. If you don't miss, you've got a chance. I missed a few, back nine, and it cost me.”
Amateur Finster Meeting Several Goals
Amateur Mike Finster, 50, of St. Petersburg, Fla., met two of his goals in this week’s U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club. The first was merely earning a spot in the field, which he did via sectional qualifying. The second was making the cut, and he did that with rounds of 76 and 69 to land on the number of 5-over 145.
He gave himself a new goal when the third round began – low amateur.
“I guess I got a little ambitious there, but that’s what I was playing for today,” Finster said after carding a third-round 79. “The conditions got a lot tougher and my nerves got to me a little bit. This course exposes your weaknesses. Today was certainly a struggle.”
Finster fell to 72nd at 14-over 224, but he still will be leaving with good memories no matter what he shoots on Sunday. He led the field in driving distance the first two days, and was ranked second behind Grant Waite after three rounds with an average poke of 305.33 yards. That power came in handy on Friday when scored an eagle on the fourth hole. A good drive and a hybrid set up a 22-footer on the long par 5, and he drained the putt.
“Our goal was to make one lifetime memory, and I did that with the eagle,” he said, beaming. “My brother has it on videotape. We’ll be cherishing that for many years.”
Finster also was proud of the 5-foot par putt he made on the ninth hole, his final of the day. It enabled him to salvage a sub-80 round.
“I was very grateful to be here, but I didn’t want to shoot a snowman,” he said. “Sometimes, golf is a microcosm of life. It’s how you deal with adversity. You don’t want to shoot 80, not in front of family and friends. Making that putt felt very good. The fact that a roofing salesman is playing on the weekend in a major … I feel truly blessed.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work regularly appears on USGA websites.