EDMOND, Okla. – Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige famously counseled, Don’t look back; someone may be gaining on you.
In the second round of the 35th U.S. Senior Open Championship at Oak Tree National, Colin Montgomerie was fully aware who was gaining on him, but he didn’t need to look back. The scenario was playing out right in front of him.
For the second consecutive day, Montgomerie played in the grouping behind Bernhard Langer, the 2010 Senior Open champion, who has already won three times on the Champions Tour this year. Montgomerie, the overnight leader after a first-round 65, shared the lead with Langer for much of the inward nine on Friday before edging ahead by two strokes over the final few holes.
It was a good effort, to be honest – it’s never easy leading, said Montgomerie after completing his round of even-par 71. Really, I was watching Bernhard Langer ahead. He was doing well in holing out and so I was just trying to keep pace with him. … Staying a couple ahead of our German friend is always good.
Indeed, Langer is actually tied for third place with Gene Sauers, after both players completed two rounds with identical scores of 69-69. Scott Dunlap, who turned 50 last August and is making his Senior Open debut, snuck in between them with a second-round 68 for a 137 total, one behind Montgomerie’s 6-under 136.
Montgomerie had a comfortable start to the championship on Thursday morning, hitting 11 of 14 fairways en route to eight birdies and the first-round lead. On Friday afternoon, however, his tee shots turned wayward, and he struggled to a couple of early bogeys. He immediately followed his second bogey with a birdie on the par-5 seventh, then settled down to record nine consecutive pars, helped by one-putts on Nos. 9 and 10. He regained the solo advantage over Dunlap, who played in the morning, with a 5-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th and a solid par on No. 18.
It was very easy to let that go today, but I’m still leading, said Montgomerie. I’m delighted with my position and delighted with the comeback from the sixth hole.
Dunlap, who competed at Oak Tree National 30 years ago in the U.S. Amateur, never got in a practice round before this championship. He opted to watch World Cup soccer on Tuesday, and his Wednesday practice plan was waylaid by rain.
I just got my putter, walked around, and reacquainted myself with some of the holes I couldn't remember, said Dunlap, who has kept his game sharp by playing on the Web.com Tour the past few years, which he described as the toughest dollar in professional golf.
Dunlap has made only one bogey in two days, on his 12th hole Thursday. His approach to practice is opposite of many of his contemporaries. Being fresh and not beaten down is the first and foremost thing for me, he said. I have friends who are the golf equivalent of basketball gym rats. They want to be at the golf course all day, every day. That’s great. That works for them. It doesn’t work for me.
Langer made the turn in 3-under 32, all square with Montgomerie at 5 under for the championship. He got to 6 under with a birdie on No. 14, but he made three bogeys and a birdie in the final four holes to slip back.
It's very difficult not to make bogeys here; you can bogey every single hole, said Langer. I just missed a lot of fairways throughout the back nine. The swing wasn't quite there today, so I've got to do a little better tomorrow.
Sauers leaped into the mix by making eagle-birdie on Nos. 7 and 8, his inward nine. He hit a hybrid to 15 feet to make one of five eagles on the day at the 499-yard seventh. Sauers won four times on the PGA Tour before retiring in 2004. He was away from the game for seven years, then battled back from a near-fatal bout with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome in 2011, the end result being that he’s just glad to be here. Bogey doesn’t mean that much anymore.
Jeff Sluman, who won the 1988 PGA Championship at Oak TreeNational, is tied for fifth place with Lance Ten Broeck, Mark Brooks and Doug Garwood at 3-under, while Vijay Singh is alone in ninth place at 140 after a second-round 71. Tom Lehman, Kirk Triplett and Wes Short Jr. are tied for 10th at 1 under. Robin Byrd, a sectional qualifier from Satellite Beach, Fla., had the day’s low round, a 67, which was a 10-stroke improvement from his Thursday round. Marco Dawson, who opened with a 66, went in the opposite direction, shooting a second-round 76 to fall into a tie for 13th.
Jeff Wilson (70-76) and 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Mike McCoy (74-74) were the lone amateurs in the group of 17 who started to make the 36-hole cut, which fell at 7-over 149. Among the notable professionals to make the cut on the number were defending champion Kenny Perry, 2012 Senior Open winner Roger Chapman, two-time major champion Mark O’Meara and Sam Randolph, the runner-up to Scott Verplank in the 1984 U.S. Amateur at Oak Tree National. Among those to miss out on the weekend were Oak Tree’s own Verplank and 1989 British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia, both of whom missed out by one stroke at 8-over 150.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.