U.S. SENIOR OPEN
Round 2: Five Things to Know
June 28, 2018 | Colorado Springs, Colo.
By Dave Shedloski
There’s nothing like breaking in a new wrist brace. Or the beer tap in the locker room.
The opening round of the 39th U.S. Senior Open was everything a player could want in a national championship examination: Fairways that were reasonably generous but lined by thick rough that had everyone mumbling something about the good old days. Fast and firm greens that were tricky, even from 2 feet. A test of patience as well as strategy and shot-making.
Good old-fashioned fun.
And the good news for the field of 155 is that they get at least one more day to enjoy the East Course at The Broadmoor, which is a wonderful layout no matter the elevation. But since it sits at 6,300 feet above sea level, there’s the added fun of thin air making club selection a bit of an adventure and walking a bit like real work. Which is as should be.
Jerry Kelly’s late-afternoon three-putt on the final hole prevented anyone from a playing bogey-free, but the Wisconsin product still managed to set himself up with a two-stroke lead. He was impressive, to say the least, one of only eight men to break par.
It’s cut day. And, no, that doesn’t mean cutting the rough. Here are five things to watch for:
1. Jerry Kelly. Well, duh. The Schwab Cup points leader on the PGA Tour Champions had no trouble deciphering the East Course on Thursday, shooting a breathtaking 4-under 66 in the breath-sapping thin air. With a morning tee time on Friday, he could put some serious distance between himself and the field with another beautiful score before half the players even digest their lunches. But one of the axioms of golf is that it’s awfully difficult to shoot back-to-back low numbers. Can he buck the trend?
2. Birdies. They were tougher to come by than muscle pulls in the first round, but that could change on Friday, if only because the field has had another look at those confounding greens. Sure, there were times when players had their issues with distance control, but in the end a lot of players, including Kelly, gave themselves good looks only to look askance as putts slid by.
3. The inward nine. Also known as the back-of-the-hand nine. Among the top 14 players on the leader board, only one, Brandt Jobe, broke par 34 and escaped making a bogey, coming home in 32. The back-nine scoring average of 37.929 was more than two strokes higher in relation to par than the front nine. This just happens to be in line with results from the 2008 championship, when the inward nine played 2.17 strokes more difficult than the outward nine. Perhaps the only thing harder than finishing on the back is starting on it, which half the field has yet to do. Good luck either way.
4. Rough. When Davis Love III, he of the 170 mph ball speed, hits six balls in the rough and goes 0-for-6 encountering lies that he can extricate with more than a 9-iron, then everyone else is just whistling past the graveyard when he misses the short grass. Steve Flesch described trying to hit a shot out of the rough as “hitting out of a pile of tennis shoes in your closet.” Nice visual. Nasty challenge. “It’s lush, and the ball goes straight to the bottom every time,” said 1992 U.S. Open champion Tom Kite. “It’s as tough as you want it. But, you know, that’s just how a U.S. Open is supposed to be.” An early estimate of a half-shot penalty for missing the fairway might be generous by week’s end.
5. Hale Irwin. The two-time U.S. Senior Open winner might be playing in his final championship, though he was noncommittal on that possibility. Irwin, 73, who also won three U.S. Opens, is playing in his 23rd U.S. Senior Open. He grew up in Colorado and attended the University of Colorado, where he played football and won the NCAA golf title his senior year, and he has a plethora of family and friends in tow this week. He opened the championship with a 79, so he’ll have work to do to make the cut. This wouldn’t be the worst place to take his curtain call, either today or Sunday. A fierce competitor, he’ll fight for every stroke.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.