Notebook: Short Guts it Out Despite Back Woes July 11, 2014 By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Wes Short Jr. fought through back issues to play the weekend at the U.S. Senior Open. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

EDMOND, Okla. – Wes Short Jr. has struggled with back problems for several years in his professional golf career. On Saturday in the third round of the U.S. Senior Open, back issues flared up in a major way when he hit his tee shot on the second hole.

At one point, Short received treatment from a physical therapist between holes, as the Rules allow, but he struggled noticeably the rest of the day, dropping to his knees at times when the spasms overtook him. He relied first on fellow competitor Vijay Singh, then on his caddie, Michael Harwood, to help him with marking his ball and retrieving it from the hole.

The physio folks came out a couple of times and said they didn’t think I could damage it any further, so I continued to play, said Short, of Austin, Texas, who turned 50 last December and had one victory in his PGA Tour career, the 2005 Michelin Championship at Las Vegas. I was just hoping I could get to the 18th and maybe get some help. Maybe I could stay in contention.

Short carded a 5-over 76, making six bogeys and one birdie in a remarkable effort, considering the circumstances, good enough for a tie for 18th place after three rounds. He is scheduled to start Round 4 at 11:10 a.m. Sunday with Tom Byrum, if he is able to continue in the championship.

It’s not a new thing – it first came up yesterday, said Harwood, of England, who has caddied for Short off and on for five years. Hopefully, it’s not the same issue that came up before; he was out of golf for six years before coming back last year.

Short has competed in 11 events on the Champions Tour this year, with his best finish a tie for 10th in the Allianz Championship. He is 43rd on the Tour money list.

It was my first USGA [championship] and I wanted to try to finish, said Short. I thought Vijay was great. I hope I didn’t mess him up because I was going slow and it was painful.

Dawson’s Rollercoaster Ride Continues

The up-and-down road that Marco Dawson traveled during the first two rounds continued in the third round at Oak Tree National.

Dawson followed an opening 5-under 66 with a 5-over 76 to drop off the pace, but in the third round Saturday – moving day at steamy Oak Tree, he did a lot of moving, chugging up the leader board again before giving strokes back at the end. Dawson carded a 2-under 69, but he got to 5-under and into a share of the lead before bogeys on the final three holes.

"Just a continuation of yesterday's round, I guess," said Dawson, 50, playing in just his seventh Champions Tour event. "Heaven forbid you miss a fairway because chances are something bad is going to happen."

Tied for fifth with major winners Vijay Singh and Jeff Sluman, who won the 1988 PGA here at Oak Tree, Dawson made six birdies in a nine-hole stretch starting at the par-5 seventh to get to 5 under for the day and the championship. But finding rough and a few greenside bunkers made for tough par saves on the way in. Nevertheless, he wasn't despondent.

"I played well. Even though I was only 2 under, I had it to 5 and, you know, could have been a couple shots better," Dawson said. "I think anytime you can afford almost – afford to lose shots you're in a good position."

Wilson, McCoy Aim For Low-Amateur Honors

When Jeff Wilson and Mike McCoy tee it up on Sunday, there will be a lot more at stake than one might expect. The duo, who sit at 6 over and 7 over, respectively, were the lone amateurs to make the 36-hole cut at Oak Tree National, and will vie for the coveted low-amateur medal.

The number of amateurs making the Senior Open cut has steadily decreased through the years. In the inaugural championship, which took place in 1980, 16 amateurs made the cut. 2014 marks the fourth straight time, and eighth time since 2002, that two or fewer amateurs advanced to weekend play.

The low amateur also earns an exemption into next year’s Senior Open, as well as this year’s U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur.

Both Wilson and McCoy have seen success in USGA championships, as McCoy is the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and Wilson was the low amateur in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. They know each other well, and, in addition to trying to climb the leader board, there will be a private competition as well.

We probably had that before the cut, said Wilson, who made his Senior Open debut in 2013. I think [McCoy] has probably got the best of me more than I've got of him. But, you know, he's a good player.

McCoy, for his part, won’t be paying a whole lot of attention to where he stands in comparison to Wilson during his final round.

We've played a lot of golf together, said McCoy, also competing in his second Senior Open. He's a great guy, good friend. I'm sure we'll both be trying hard.

Hole 7 Provides Rare Scoring Opportunity

U.S. Senior Open competitors looking to pick up a shot at Oak Tree National won’t find many ready-made options, with only one hole playing under par for the championship. Through three rounds, the 511-yard, par-5 seventh hole has played to a stroke average of 4.95, and has become increasingly friendly as the week has gone along. After playing comfortably over par during Thursday’s first round (5.20), the field has taken advantage of the hole since then, recording 30 birdies or better on Saturday, against just seven bogeys or worse.

Of the 10 eagles recorded during the championship so far, nine of them have come at No. 7, and have helped to buoy a pair of players’ chances. Jeff Sluman, who will enter the final round tied for fifth, made an eagle-3 there on Friday, as did Gene Sauers, who is atop the leader board.

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org. Scott Lipsky and Dave Shedloski contributed to this report.