U.S. Senior Open returns big-time golf to Detroit area after painful absence

Olin Browne at the U.S. Senior Open
Getty Images
''The hard holes are easy when you play them well,'' defending U.S. Senior Open champion Olin Browne said of Indianwood. ''And, the easy holes are hard when you mess them up.''
By
Larry Lage
Associated Press

Series: Champions Tour

Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 | 12:40 a.m.

LAKE ORION, Mich. -- Tiger Woods cruised to an easy victory at the Buick Open in 2009 -- before a scandal in his personal life stunted his career -- the last time a significant golf tournament was held in southeast Michigan.

Big-time golf will soon make its long-awaited return to the area.

U.S. SENIOR OPEN

The U.S. Senior Open is being played in southeastern Michigan only a few weeks after the Senior PGA Championship was staged in southwestern Michigan.

The U.S. Senior Open will be played this week at Indianwood Golf & Country Club about 30 miles north of Detroit. Roger Chapman won the Senior PGA Championship six weeks ago in Benton Harbor, but that event was closer to the Windy City than the Motor City.

''This will probably be Tom Watson's last championship of any significance in Michigan and I think people should understand that,'' U.S. Senior Open Senior Director Tim Flaherty said. ''I don't want to write anybody off, but there's a lot of great players and this might be the last time they play in Detroit.''

Previously spoiled golf fans in southeast Michigan haven't been able witness a significant tournament locally for years.

The Buick Open was in Grand Blanc regularly until losing its sponsorship a few years ago. The PGA Championship was at Oakland Hills in 2008, four years after it hosted the Ryder Cup, and the storied course won't be in the spotlight again until the 2016 U.S. Amateur. The last Senior Players Championship at the TPC of Michigan was in 2006, when Ford Motor Co. decided it couldn't afford to continue funding the event.

The Ryder Cup and PGA Championship were part of an impressive run of scheduled, marquee sporting events in the area that included the Super Bowl, Final Four and baseball's All-Star game.

''This Senior Open just extends that legacy,'' Detroit Lions Coach Jim Schwartz said while promoting the event before playing a round at Indianwood.

The Wilfrid Reid- and William Connellan-designed course that opened nearly nine decades ago hosted the U.S. Women's Open in 1989 and 1994. At just 3,327 yards on the front nine and 6,891 in total, the par-70 course might struggle to hold scores down in favorable weather when the best 50-and-older golfers in the world compete on it.

''The hard holes are easy when you play them well,'' defending U.S. Senior Open champion Olin Browne said. ''And, the easy holes are hard when you mess them up.''

USGA executive Jeff Hall doesn't sound worried about the course responding to the upcoming challenge.

''We think the setup will defend Indianwood just fine,'' Hall said. ''Indianwood has never been about how long of a golf course it is, it's about shot-making.''