U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Rookie/Reporter McCarron Likes His Chances
August 11, 2016 | Columbus, Ohio
By Dave Shedloski
The consensus is rather clear. Scioto Country Club is going to be the most difficult course that senior golfers will face this year on the PGA Tour Champions. At least that’s in the estimation of those about to challenge it in the 37th U.S. Senior Open.
Bernhard Langer noted its healthy length – 7,129 yards at par 70. “That’s senior golf?” he wondered aloud. Rocco Mediate said, “The rough is great, the bunkers are evil.” Added Fred Funk, “If there’s a harder course we’re going to play this year, I’m not sure I want to see it.”
Scott McCarron called it a perfect golf course for him.
Apparently, he didn’t get the memo. Oh, he admitted that Scioto is an exacting examination. “It looks like a U.S. Open with the rough up. The greens are firm,” he said. “You’ve got to keep the ball in play.”
But McCarron, playing in his first U.S. Senior Open, realizes that there’s an opportunity here. He still hits it long enough off the tee, and he has been playing well in his first full season on the PGA Tour Champions, with one victory and top-10 finishes in three of the first four senior majors, including second two weeks ago in the Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland.
“I like my chances. I feel very comfortable out there,” he said.
Well, you would, too, if the only time you’re working hard in the rough is when you have a microphone in your hands.
The California native might well be pulling double duty this week. He is a member of the Fox Sports broadcast team covering the championship, but his time as an on-course reporter for the network will depend on how much time he spends in front of the camera as a competitor. Don’t be surprised if he gets plenty of face time on the leader board.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good,” said McCarron, who in 14 events this year has four top-10 finishes and 11 in the top 25. “I didn't play well last week at the 3M Championship (T-57]. But going into that, I seemed to be in the hunt almost every week. It's been a lot of fun. It's been a learning experience.”
Winner of three events on the PGA Tour in a pro career that began in 1992, McCarron admits that he might be a better player now than when he was a member of the 1988 NCAA Championship team at UCLA. He’s certainly a well-rounded golfer now. And for that he can thank his television work.
“It's been a lot of fun for me to see the best players in the world playing their best, what they're doing, and it has really helped my game,” he said. “It taught me patience more than anything. Guys don't always play their best, but nothing really ever seems to bother them. So that has helped me quite a bit.”
And even the weeks he is not playing, like when he was part of the Fox team at the U.S. Open at Oakmont, he’s engaging his mind in a similar manner.
“I do a lot of work on the golf course before the tournament starts. I'll be there Tuesday walking it, Wednesday walking it. I'll walk the golf course just like I'm going to play it,” he said. “What would I do here? What would I hit off the tees here? I'm talking to the players constantly about what their strategy is, what they're trying to do, so I can bring it in.”
McCarron has been playing golf since he was 3 years old. You would think he would be ready to let it go or to ease off, but here he is working it, thinking it, playing it. Living it. Like many of his peers in the 50-and-over crowd, he has an abiding love for the game.
“How do I keep my enthusiasm for golf? I think I've always had that,” McCarron said. “I love playing golf. You know, you've got to remember, I played college golf at UCLA. I quit golf for about four years after college, went into business selling insurance and manufacturing headwear and all kinds of stuff.
“So for me to come out here after thinking my career was never going to happen on the PGA Tour, it's like I can hardly wait to wake up every morning and get out there and practice and play. So having that four years off from golf … it really gave me an appreciation, after being away from the game, of how special a game it is.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.