Chien Soon Lu shot a 2-under 68 on Saturday to move into a tie for third in the U.S. Senior Open, five strokes behind leaders Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer with one round left. The Taiwanese player will be in the second-to-last group, paired with Tom Kite.
Lu was once among the top Asian players in the world, a 32-time winner on the Asia circuits and a two-time winner of the Asian Tour's Order of Merit. Then he was forced to quit because of a bad back.
Lu went seven years, from 2001-08, without playing competitive golf. Then through herbal medicines, physical therapy and ancient treatments, he recovered. He turned 50 in December and wanted to test his renewed game against the best on the Champions Tour. To do that, he had to go through Qualifying School.
Lu went on to earn the 12th and final spot to qualify for the Tour. He did it with a birdie on the eighth playoff hole.
This season, he has four top-10 finishes on the Champions Tour and now finds himself among some star company -- in contention for the tour's biggest prize.
"When I go on the course, since the first day, I just try to keep it on the path," Lu said through an interpreter. "I don't want to do something aggressive. I think if I do it this way I have chance, even if it's Top 10."
Asked how his countryman back in Taiwan would react if he should win the Open, Lu said, "Of course, everyone feel excited. You know, like not some sports are really famous, like baseball, golf right now, so everyone would cheer for me -- hero, yeah, hero."
MARKER IN THE SAND: Jim Pike, Sahalee's PGA Club Professional for the past 23 years, was the second alternate at his sectional and barely missed a chance to compete in the Senior Open on his home course. But he still managed to play a round. Because there was an odd number of players that made the cut, Bill Sautter was scheduled to tee off first and alone. Pike was asked to play with Sautter.
"It's a tradition," said Sautter, a PGA Professional at Philadelphia Golf and Cricket Club. "I needed someone to keep my score and someone to be a marker."
Pike was willing to serve.
"It was awesome. It was so much fun," Pike said. "A lot of our members were out there cheering me on so it was pretty special for me.
"It was a real treat because we don't see these conditions often. I was telling Bill, this is the second time I've seen these conditions. The first time was during the 1998 PGA Championship."
Pike's main role was to score and serve in a support role, whatever Sautter needed. He's allowed to give yardage readings and information on the course but no information not available to the other competitors.
"It was wonderful to be paired with a club pro. I'm a club pro. He was dying to get out," Sautter said. "He's been here at 5 a.m. every morning. It was kind of a nice break for him.
"It was neat that all the members were out there recognizing him. He got some nice ovations and I think he really enjoyed it."
His biggest ovation was after his birdie on the ninth hole.
"That was pretty special," Pike said. "I hit a 5-iron in from about 180 yards to four feet and made the putt. It was a treat, especially around the clubhouse and the gallery."
Pike, who generally shoots par, finished with a 79. He may join again Sautter in the final round.
"It would be great, just go have a good time," Pike added. "My score doesn't matter but it'd be a blast to go out there and play again and be a marker."
CHIP SHOTS: There have only been 12 eagles through three rounds at Sahalee, but five of them came on Sunday and three on par 4s. Javier Sanchez holed out from the fairway on the fourth, Mark Calcavecchia holed out from 169 yards on the 10th and Jeff Hart might have had the most impressive on the 18th. With a fairway wood, Hart rolled his second shot through the front of the green and into the cup for a 2. ... Attendance on Saturday was 28,967.