U.S. Senior Open Notebook: Heavy rains makes course setup too slow

nick price
Getty Images
By
Rusty Miller
Associated Press

Series: Champions Tour

At most events set up by the U.S. Golf Association, there's a long line of players complaining about how hard and slick the greens are.

Thanks to heavy rains overnight -- and almost 4 inches of precipitation in the last week -- that isn't a problem at the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club.

In Friday's second round, delayed 2 hours and 45 minutes by an early morning cloudburst, the problem was the greens -- usually as fast as a slippery slide -- were downright slow and spongy.

"I think all of us are a little thrown off," said Jay Haas, who shot a 69 after the storms left. "We get a downhill putt and I don't think people are getting the ball to the hole because we just think it's going to be fast."

Usually, a USGA setup involves narrow fairways, greens that register "marble floor" on the Stimpmeter and high rough.

Some of the players are thankful that Inverness isn't baring her usual fangs.

"I played here when (Paul) Azinger won," said Peter Senior, referring to Azinger's playoff win over Greg Norman in the 1993 PGA Championship. "You'd get on the wrong side of the hole and you had 6 or 7 feet to clean up. So we're pretty fortunate that the greens are as soft as they are. Even when you miss it short side now, you can still get up and down reasonably easy."

The weather forecast is for clear skies, temperatures in the 90s and high humidity for the rest of the weekend.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Nick Price, on going from the cool and windy climate at last week's Senior British Open to the heat and humidity at this week's U.S. Senior Open: "It feels like we've gone from Alaska to the Amazon."

QUOTE OF THE DAY II: Mark Calcavecchia, on the same subject: "Last week I was intentionally trying to be cold because I knew I was going to be hot as hell for about a month at least."

NOT HIS FAVORITE: It was a loaded question, but Calcavecchia didn't care: Were you a good U.S. Open player?

"No. I was a horrible Open player. I've never sniffed it in a U.S. Open," said the loquacious former British Open champion.

He said it's easy to see why.

"Historically, the rough's usually chip-out rough and I'm not exactly (ultra-straight) Calvin Peete or David Toms or Fred Funk with the driver. I tend to hit it a little bit crooked, and that usually doesn't pan out well in the U.S. Open."

There are exceptions, he said.

"Phil (Mickelson) has no idea where it's going (off the tee) and he's had five seconds in the U.S. Open," Calcavecchia said, drawing laughs from reporters. "So I guess that disproves my theory. But I'm not Phil, either."

HOMETOWN BOY: Steve Schaff almost waited too long to sneak back into his hometown. Now he's making the most of it.

Schaff was 3 over par with four holes left in his U.S. Senior Open qualifier in Florida, but finished birdie-ace-birdie-birdie to make it into a playoff with Damon Green, whose day job is caddieing for Zach Johnson on the PGA Tour.

Even though Schaff, who attended the University of Toledo, lost out in a playoff, he still joined the field this week as an alternate. He showed consistency -- 39-39--78 each day -- but was doomed to miss the cut at Inverness Club.

Still, he was thrilled to even be a part of the tournament.

"Day 2 of the dream," he said with a smile after Friday's second round. "It was really great. I felt a lot better today. Just being out there with John Cook and Peter Jacobsen was a lot of fun. I really wish I could have played better. I didn't score great, but this was an experience of a lifetime, for sure."

The 54-year-old said down the road he'll have one memory in particular.

"The people here at my home, the reception, just the love I felt from all the friends that I've had and people I've worked for and worked with over the years here," he said. "I really don't have words to describe the experienced I've had. It's going to take some time to sink in. But it's amazing."

SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Mark Wiebe's hopes in the U.S. Senior Open were slipping away. Then, like any good do-it-yourselfer, he restructured his game.

After making two bogeys and a double bogey in a four-hole span in his opening nine holes in Friday's second round, Wiebe turned things around by playing the last 10 holes in 3 under to shoot a 67 that left him a 3-under 138 through 36 holes.

So, was the problem more mental or physical, Mark?

"No, it's mental. I made a couple of bonehead moves and I learned from them and stopped making them," he said.

LATE LAPSE: Japan's Kiyoshi Murota had the lead all to himself in the U.S. Senior Open. Then came two troublesome holes.

Murota made bogey and double bogey at Nos. 8 and 9 to finish up his second round Friday with a 69 that left him at 5-under 137.

Through an interpreter, he related what went wrong.

"It's hard to hit it from that deep rough," he said of the bogey.

As for the 6 at the par-4 eighth?

"It's very difficult, very sensitive chipping out there," he said.

He jokingly blamed the media for his late problems.

"I was thinking about I'm going to lead," he said. "And I'm going to have to come over here and you'll interview me. So I got nervous and made bogey and double bogey at the end."

DIVOTS: David Frost was disqualified for choosing to not reload after hitting his drive out of bounds off the ninth tee. He was 5 over at the time and well past the cut line anyway. ... D.A. Weibring aced the 170-yard third with a 6-iron, his second on the Champions Tour to go with four on the PGA Tour. ... Over-50 crowd favorite Tom Watson elected to play at the Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour instead of playing with his peers. He shot 75-71--146 in West Virginia and missed the cut by five strokes.