Toledo, Ohio – If Olin Browne does not win the 32nd U.S. Senior Open, it will not be because of a lack of affinity for the 104-year-old Inverness Club.
Browne, normally measured in his thoughts, is downright effusive in his appreciation for the various elements of the Donald Ross design.
I know this is a chop-buster of a golf course, he said. It's just a really, really cool layout. I love the way the holes are framed. I really like this old style.
In return, Ross would likely appreciate how Browne has worked his way around the 7,143-yard, par-71 course to become the championship’s second-round leader. At 9-under 133, Browne has hit 80 percent of the fairways, missed just 10 of the 36 diminutive greens and has yet to three-putt a green.
It's a fun place to play, he said.
When play was suspended due to darkness at 8:56 p.m., Browne led Mark O’Meara by a stroke. Mark Calcavecchia, Joey Sindelar and Michael Allen, who briefly tied Browne at 9 under late Friday evening before bogeys on two of the final three holes, are at 7-under 135.
Twenty-one players had not completed their rounds when play was suspended. The second round will resume on Saturday at 7:15 a.m.
Browne, 52, again pushed himself atop the leaderboard with a strong finish. On Thursday, it was two eagles in the final six holes; Friday it was birdies on the par-4 17th and 18th holes.
Should have birdied 16, Browne said. There was a thumbnail‑sized spike mark right in my line, and I just couldn't get around it. But I hit maybe my best iron shot of the day in there, so I was really disappointed.
I made double [bogey] on 7 because I hit it under a tree and I had nothing. That was a problem. But other than that, I didn't drive it as well as I did yesterday. I had a couple of shots out of the long stuff, and that one in particular I got away with.
O’Meara, who teed off with Allen and Sindelar in the afternoon wave, not only beat the waning daylight, but cut into Browne’s lead with a three-under 68.
I hit a couple of poor ones out there, but overall I felt like I stayed in the game pretty well, said O’Meara, 54, the 1998 Masters and British Open champion, who played just one practice round this week. I've got my work cut out for me because there's a lot of good players on that leaderboard, and we'll see how it goes over the weekend.
Allen, 52, the 2009 Senior PGA champion, tied Browne at 9 under with a birdie at the 431-yard, par-4 14th hole. He gave a stroke back with bogey at the 461-yard, par-4 16th and then lipped out for par on the 350-yard, par-4 18th green.
Though disappointed in his finish, Allen, like O’Meara and Sindelar, was pleased with the prospect of sleeping in on Saturday morning. The start of Friday’s second round was delayed 2 hours and 45 minutes due to inclement weather.
I did not want to be getting up early tomorrow, Allen said. It's nice. It's all working out well, and I've got a great chance this weekend.
Sindelar, 53, played on Ohio State University’s 1979 NCAA Championship squad with John Cook, and on Friday gave Buckeye fans something to cheer. Sindelar and Jeff Roth, the head club professional at San Juan Country Club in Farmington, N.M., shot the day’s low round, a 5-under 66.
Sindelar, like Browne, finished with a pair of birdies at the 17th and 18th holes.
I think in the middle of that back nine you hang, you hang, and you try to get to a place where you get close enough to have something happen, Sindelar said. I got a nice drive and an 8‑iron close enough on 17, a 12‑footer. And then on 18, just a 3‑wood and a wedge … you've heard the guys talk today about a pin placement that it funnels to, so I threw a pitching wedge in real close. Fun way to end the day.
Calcavecchia, 51, coming off a bittersweet runner-up finish at the Senior British Open, is somewhat surprised that he is even in contention based on his previous U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open record. He has never finished better than 14th since his first U.S. Open in 1986.
Historically, because the roughs are usually chipout roughs and I'm not exactly Calvin Peete out there with my driver, or David Toms or Fred Funk, he said. I tend to hit it a little bit crooked, and that usually doesn't pan out well in the U.S. Open.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA websites.