U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Five Groups to Watch at Scioto
August 6, 2016 | Far Hills, N.J.
By Scott Lipsky, USGA
John Daly, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Ian Woosnam (Thursday, No. 10, 7:51 a.m.; Friday, No. 1, 1:21 p.m.)
“The Most Interesting Man in Golf.” A U.S. Senior Open rookie who gave new meaning to the term, “Grip it and Rip it.” Two major champions celebrating anniversaries of milestone victories. At least one very colorful pair of pants. This group has a little bit of everything, and will be sure to draw droves of spectators at Scioto.
Jimenez, 52, is a 21-time winner on the European Tour, and his victory in the 2014 Open de España in his native Spain at age 50 makes him the oldest winner in the Tour’s history. The three-time PGA Tour Champions winner is coming off a tie for third in the Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie, in which he held the 54-hole lead.
Daly turned 50 in April, and Thursday will mark the 25-year anniversary of him storming onto the golf scene and claiming victory in the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. He has been a fan favorite ever since, with the big-hitting University of Arkansas product adding the 1995 British Open title along the way. Similar to Daly, Woosnam, 58, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his signature victory, the 1991 Masters.
Of course, the achievements of Daly and Jimenez are only part of the reason fans can’t wait to see them. Jimenez has become a cult figure, thanks in large part to his unique pre-round stretching routine and affinity for luxury cars, wine and cigars, while Daly is generally a lock to have the most eye-catching wardrobe in the field. This group will certainly be entertaining, and that’s assuming Jimenez doesn’t break out into his hole-in-one dance.
Larry Mize, Larry Nelson, Hale Irwin (Thursday, No. 10, 1:52 p.m.; Friday, No. 1, 8:22 a.m.)
Two of these three major champions have enjoyed some of the most memorable moments of their careers in USGA championships.
Irwin, 71, is one of the most decorated champions in USGA history, having captured three U.S. Opens and two U.S. Senior Opens, most recently in 2000, when he set the championship’s 72-hole scoring record, which has since been matched, but not broken. He won a record 45 PGA Tour Champions titles, and his eight top-10 finishes in the Senior Open is tied for the most all-time.
Nelson, 68, won three majors during his celebrated career, including the 1983 U.S. Open, and, like Irwin, had tremendous success after turning 50, capturing 19 PGA Tour Champions events. That’s an impressive résumé for anyone, let alone somebody who didn’t take up the game until age 22.
Mize, 57, won the Masters in 1987, famously chipping in for birdie on the second playoff hole to defeat Greg Norman. He went on to finish tied for fourth in the U.S. Open that year, his best career finish. His start at Scioto will mark his sixth in a U.S. Senior Open and first since 2013, with his best finish being a tie for eighth in 2010.
Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara, Tom Watson (Thursday, No. 1, 1:52 p.m.; Friday, No. 10, 8:22 a.m.)
These three major champions have all fallen just short of adding a U.S. Senior Open title to their impressive portfolios.
Watson, 66, an eight-time major champion who famously chipped in on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach during the final round of the 1982 U.S. Open to edge Jack Nicklaus, has six top-5 finishes in the Senior Open, including three runner-ups.
Lehman, 57, finished tied for second in the championship in 2012, but the 1996 British Open champion and winner of three senior majors is better known for his near misses in the U.S. Open, in which he finished fifth or better each year from 1995 to 1998 and was the 54-hole leader for three consecutive years.
O’Meara, 59, cemented his Hall-of-Fame career with a pair of major victories in 1998, capturing the Masters and The Open Championship, and added a senior major to the list when he claimed the 2010 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. He has four top-20 finishes in eight Senior Open starts, and was the runner-up to Olin Browne in 2011.
Marco Dawson, Chip Lutz, Jeff Maggert (Thursday, No. 10, 8:12 a.m.; Friday, No. 1, 1:42 p.m.)
This traditional grouping includes the champions from the previous year’s U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Senior Amateur and Senior Open Championship. There is a little bit of a wrinkle this year, as Dawson is no longer the reigning Senior Open champion: the 2016 version of the championship has already been contested, since this year’s U.S. Senior Open is being played later than usual. Dawson’s victory in 2015 at Sunningdale Golf Club in England, however, gets him a spot in this group with Maggert, who fired a final-round 65 at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento, Calif., to edge 2014 Senior Open champion Colin Montgomerie by two strokes, and Lutz, the reigning Senior Amateur champion. Dawson will be making his third start in the championship, having tied for fifth in his debut in 2014.
Maggert, 52, established himself as one of the top players on the PGA Tour Champions circuit in 2015, his second season, capturing four victories, including two senior majors. He is still looking for his first victory of 2016 but has recorded five top-10 finishes in 13 starts.
Lutz, 61, is making his Senior Open debut, earning a spot in the field at Scioto by defeating Tom Brandes, 5 and 3, to claim the U.S. Senior Amateur at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., last October. The day was an emotional one for Lutz, as he finally broke through after advancing to the semifinals three previous times, and won with his mother, who had never seen him play competitively, in attendance. The attorney from Reading, Pa., also counts three Seniors Amateur Championship titles among his accomplishments, having captured his third on Friday in a playoff at Formby, England. Lutz dropped a 25-foot birdie putt to seal the victory after previously winning the Seniors Amateur in 2011 and 2012.
Olin Browne, Kenny Perry, Colin Montgomerie (Thursday, No. 10, 8:33 a.m.; Friday, No. 1, 2:03 p.m.)
A trio of U.S. Senior Open champions will look to add their names to the Francis Ouimet Trophy once more.
Browne, 57, was victorious in 2011 at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, and has had strong performances in the four senior majors thus far in 2016. He was second in the Regions Tradition in May, and was sixth in the Constellation Senior Players Championship the following month. He has also finished tied for the 16th and tied for 23rd in the Senior PGA Championship and Senior Open Championship, respectively.
Perry, 55, matched Hale Irwin’s 72-hole championship scoring record in his five-stroke victory in 2013 at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club. The 14-time PGA Tour winner has also had a successful turn on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, having won eight times, including three senior majors. He also hit arguably the most memorable shot of the championship during the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
Montgomerie, 53, was famously snakebitten in major championships, with three of his five runner-ups in majors coming at the U.S. Open, but has had a reversal of fortune since turning 50. His 2014 Senior Open victory at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla., was the second of three senior majors he has captured thus far, and while he hasn’t yet won in 2016, he finished second in the Senior PGA Championship, which he had won the previous two years.
Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.