Players Anticipate Grueling Final 36 Holes
By Dave Shedloski
Town and Country, Mo. – It will be a long, slow, wearying walk to the victory stand at the 25th U.S. Senior Open Sunday when the 60 players who made the cut face a 36-hole final beginning at 6:45 a.m. CDT.
"It (the two-round finish) is more of a factor than on the regular tour from an age standpoint," said Craig Stadler, who shares the second-round lead with Peter Jacobsen at 7-under-par 135. "All you can do is try to pace yourself and off you go."
Heavy morning rains washed out second-round play Friday, forcing the U.S. Golf Association to choose between a Monday finish or the demanding double round Sunday. Tom Kite, who is at 5 under par, and Hale Irwin, a longtime St. Louis resident who is three behind at 4 under, were among the players who agreed with the decision.
"We need a resolution on Sunday. The fans deserve that," said Irwin, 59, the oldest player among the top 20 on the leader board. "It's certainly going to make for an interesting finish. [Sunday] is a wide open affair."
Tom Watson, 54, countered that the age issue should have been given paramount consideration. "I can't see why we can't go 18 on Monday," said the 1982 U.S. Open winner. "It's strictly an age issue. The heat index is going to be 105 degrees [Sunday]. We're not spring chickens out here."
|Midway co-leader Peter Jacobsen towels off during the muggy second round Saturday. (John Mummert/USGA)
Watson said players like he and Jacobsen, still recovering from a hip operation, have to be cognizant of what possible long-term detriment they could inflict on themselves by gutting out 36 holes.
Watson has a bad shoulder and hip.
"It's going to be a long, difficult day for everybody," said Kite, 54, seeking his first victory on the Champions Tour in more than two years. "Big, old golf course, soft golf course, the zoysia grass is thick and it's hard to walk through anyway, and now its thick and wet and holding a lot of water, so it's kind of like walking in soft sand on the beach. It's just going to be a marathon day."
Jay Haas, 50, playing in just his second Champions Tour event, agreed with Irwin that plenty of players, regardless of age, could come out on top.
"I don't think you can discount anyone who's up there just because of age or anything like that," said Haas, who was runner-up to Irwin in the rain-plagued Senior PGA Championship earlier this year that was extended to Monday. "There's no such thing as an edge because of age."
"Honestly, I don't foresee 36 holes being a problem," added Fuzzy Zoeller, 52, who tied D.A. Weibring for the day's low round, a 5-under 66, despite hitting just six fairways. "I think the only people who are going to complain are the people who work in the air conditioning. As far as golfers go, we're used to it. We play golf every day of our lives, and this is just a time of year where it's hot. Just drink plenty of water so you're ready to go."
Weibring, who like Zoeller didn't make a bogey Saturday, mapped out a strategy that many of his fellow competitors may want to emulate.
"I think you have to go into it with the mentality you don't warm up as long in the morning, you try to get into a good rhythm thinking the first 18 is your first nine and try and make it as easy on yourself as you can," said the 51-year-old Weibring, 51. "Maybe you catch some areas of momentum. If you can play fairways and greens and make a putt or two that can really help you in the afternoon round."
Momentum, more than stamina, might be the difference when all is said and done and players' skins are well-done.
"If you get on a roll, if you get playing well, you get confident, you get momentum, you get adrenaline flowing, and it carries you through," predicted Haas.
Dave Shedloski is a free-lance writer whose work has appeared previously on www.ussenioropen.com.