Round 3: Five Things to Watch For July 1, 2017 | PEABODY, Mass. By Dave Shedloski

The rain pushed through and the sun was shining as Round 3 began at the 38th U.S. Senior Open. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

U.S. Senior Open Home

So, I guess we’re going to keep doing this?

Kenny Perry and Kirk Triplett lead the U.S. Senior Open after completing 36 holes Friday at Salem Country Club in 11-under 129, breaking the championship record of 130 set in 2013 by Michael Allen at Omaha Country Club in Nebraska – a championship Perry went on to win.

Meanwhile, the benign conditions that prevailed again for much of Friday aided the field in general. With the second round completed Saturday morning after a rainstorm suspended play late Friday afternoon, the record for lowest cut in championship history was lowered to 1-over 141, eclipsing the mark of 2-over 144 in the 2011 championship at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.

After the weather-aided scoring binge at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, it seems only fitting that the seniors get their chance to swim in the red sea. Algebraic computations suggest the leaders are on pace to break the 72-hole scoring record of 20 under par set by Fred Funk in winning the 2009 championship at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind. They also are on track to shatter the aggregate scoring record of 267 that Hale Irwin set in 2000 at the Old Course at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem, Pa., in 2000 and Perry matched at Omaha in ’13.

There’s more. But we’ll hold off. An entertaining 36 holes are in the books.

Here’s what to watch for in the third round:

  • Kenny Perry: The 2013 U.S. Senior Open champion has his putter working magic through two rounds, and that is not good news for the field. Throughout his career, Perry has been a streaky putter, and when it gets hot it tends to stay hot. “That's been the story of my career,” the Kentucky native said. “When I won in ’13 in Omaha, I did the same kind of thing. I was rolling them in from everywhere.”
  • Fairways: Salem received close to a half-inch of rain on Friday night, and though this makes the greens more receptive, the softer conditions will be more useful to the players off the tee. The rough isn’t crazy at Salem CC, but being in it is still a sizable penalty. Wet fairways will keep the ball from running into unplayable positions, which then gives players more green-light opportunities to flag-hunt. As Paul Goydos (65-68—133) said, “The rough is no good. There’s just no way to get the ball … back into place where a par was going to be a reasonable score.”
  • Hole locations: Now that the field has been pared to 61 players, the USGA can get more creative at setting the holes on those diabolical Donald Ross-designed greens. Except it won’t, because already there have been some very tricky hole locations. There is no way to not put some on slopes. All the greens have slope. What competitors are likely to encounter on Saturday is the same formula of six hard ones, six medium, six easy – though “easy” is a relative term.
  • The par-4 second and 17th holes: The former is 484 yards and the latter 490, and together the two holes, converted from par 5s, have yielded a measly 26 birdies thus far. The second hole has been particularly punishing, giving up six birdies in 36 holes compared to extracting 157 bogeys or worse. The overall length of Salem CC is a non-factor at 6,815 yards, but these two holes require some punch, especially given the softened turf, and they could prove consequential.
  • Tom Lehman: Golf doesn’t play favorites, and it certainly isn’t sentimental. But if it allowed for such, Lehman would be near the top of the list for a victory this weekend. Winner of the 1996 Open Championship, Lehman had close calls in four straight U.S. Opens in the 1990s, and since turning 50 he has never finished out of the top 25 in this championship. He enters the third round four behind co-leaders Perry and Kirk Triplett. Will he finally get his national title?

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to USGA websites.

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