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Players turn cold shoulder toward chilly conditions
Clad in a carrot-colored orange sweater and an orange(like the fruit)-colored golf shirt underneath, Norman stood out in gloomy conditions on Wednesday at the Senior PGA Championship.
The sun occasionally peeked through the clouds but temperatures peaked at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and hovered in the low 40s for most of the morning. A light mist fell at times and made it feel even colder.
"It's going to be a tough test," Norman said. "Tomorrow's going to be tough, tomorrow morning is going to be tough. When you're teeing off at 8 o'clock in the morning and it's 40 degrees, you know that doesn't help the juices too much."
Having an early tee time may pose a disadvantage for some players. DTN Meteorologist Willis Young, who is onsite this week, predicts a low near 39 degrees for Thursday morning along with a 70-percent chance for rain.
"I just came from the practice tee and guys are talking now, 'Gee, I tee off at 7:30, 8 o'clock and it's going to be freezing.' And it will be tough," Denis Watson, defending champion at the Senior PGA Championship said. "It seems like guys that are teeing off in the afternoon might get a little bit of a break depending on how fast it warms up tomorrow."
For the most part, however, players stressed that the weather is the same for everyone so there's no sense in bemoaning an early start or the cold snap. The course set-up will create the same threat for everyone in the field.
"The golf course can play very hard," Jeff Sluman, a native of Rochester, said. "I think Kerry Haigh (PGA Managing Director, Championships and Business Development) from the PGA needs to be cognizant and I'm sure he's very in tune to the set-up tomorrow. You don't need to try and kill everybody tomorrow. Because the golf course is going to be cold and on and off showers and windy, that's enough to protect any golf course, let alone this one."
In cold weather the golf ball doesn't travel as far, therefore players will have to choose their clubs carefully. Where a 5-iron would typically suffice, they might pull the 4-iron instead.
"I tend to struggle a little bit in the cold weather," Loren Roberts admitted. "When you have cold weather you just have to swing the club a little easier and try to keep the ball in play. You are going to have to expect to hit a couple of clubs more into each hole."
"The balls are not flying anywhere, the new golf balls don't perform as well as the old golf balls in the cold conditions," Norman added. "They like anything over 80 degrees, just like our bodies, so it's going to be a tough week for everybody."
Only golfers over age 50 can compete in the Senior PGA Championship, which means the cold will have a greater effect on the field. Due to age and injuries, many of them have tighter swings now than when they were at their prime on the PGA TOUR and the cold will only further hinder their movement.
"(Now) it takes me about an hour or two to loosen up and to limber up a little bit," Bernhard Langer said. "It's harder to make a full turn. Especially when the weather is cold, it's even tougher. When you're young, you just put your feet on the ground and you're ready to go."
And Langer, at age 50, is one of the younger ones. Several of the players in the field are over the 60-year mark.
"I think for any of us 50 or older, or anybody that gets older, we don't like cold weather. It's more difficult to play in. We get a little tighter. The course plays a little longer," Jay Haas explained. "And you just can't feel your hands as much. When it's in the 50s and wet, it's going to be hard to feel the club, hard to keep your touch."
Conditions are expected to improve over the weekend, with Sunday's high projected to be higher than 70 degrees.
However, the natives of Rochester, N.Y., will come out rain or shine. Fans flocked to the course for practice rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday (dressed in full jackets and ski caps, of course) and remained even when the sun refused to shine.
"It's a great golf city," Sluman said. "All you have to do is look outside in this weather and see how many people are still out there."
Tricks of the trade: Most of us don't subject ourselves to golf in cold, rainy and windy conditions. Those are the rare times when the cubicle beckons instead of the golf course.
Professionals, however, are occasionally forced to play in chilly weather. After suffering through it for 20 or 30 years, there's no one better than the Champions Tour pros to share the secrets they've picked up for dealing with tough conditions:
Greg Norman: "I'll be warming up the (club) shaft under my armpit for the shot every time I hit. I did that my whole career. I played in England and (in) cold weather I always put the shaft (there) and warmed it up as much as I can. You don't get the heat all the way through the metal, right through the shaft, but you get warmth and a bit more flexibility back into it. Definitely with graphite shafts it works a little bit better, I've noticed. (If) you got to do it a lot, your arm pit gets hot."
Loren Roberts: (when asked if he has any tricks to stay warm) "I feel like I've got an advantage -- (I don't want to be) giving away my secrets. No, you know what I like to do is to wear those back heat things, those ThermaCare heat wraps. They are awesome. I don't like ski hats (or anything) because I feel like it just pulls my eyebrows over my eyes but those ThermaCare things are great."
Ian Woosnam: "Like dressing in the heat, you've got to dress for the cold. And I think you got to make sure that you got the right clothes on. I like to make sure if I'm going to wear my rain suit just to have something light on underneath."
Tim Simpson: "I think it's important to layer just like you would in the winter if you are going skiing or something. Late yesterday afternoon, when I got into town, the first thing I did was go to the store and buy some more t-shirts. Of course I brought my long underwear that I wear in the winter hunting. I think you have to stay moving, I'm going to try to avoid sitting down."
Tom Watson: "The most important thing, very simply -- and this is very mundane -- is to keep your hands warm. Keep 'em in your pockets. It's that simple. If your hands get cold you will lose your flexibility and your feel and you aren't going to play as well."
Joey Sindelar: "You'll notice with me that I won't hit a shot with a rain jacket on. It doesn't matter how cold or how wet it is -- unless it's Friday and I'm 86 over par and it doesn't matter anymore -- one of the things I know is that, when I have things on my arms, I don't play golf well. I always get made fun of for it. I'll be on the range and guys will say 'What are you doing? Where's your sweater?' But I know I'm not as good a golfer with all of that equipment on. With a rain jacket, any jacket, even a sweater. I'll be bare armed. Even the most comfortable long-sleeved t-shirt, I just couldn't. I think it's a mental thing at this point."