He’s in position to win again, this time flying solo.
O’Meara turned in a 5-under-par 67 on Saturday in the third round of the Senior PGA Championship, leaving him two shots behind co-leaders Jay Don Blake and Tom Lehman.
A win here would mean a lot to the 53-year-old, maybe even as much as when he hoisted the Masters and British Open trophies in 1998.
“It would be a feather in the cap,” O’Meara said. “But there’s a lot of work still out there to happen.”
The nerves are beginning to surface. Even after all these years, contending for a title still makes him antsy.
It’s a feeling he’s almost forgotten in recent years, and glad to have back.
“I’ve got to go out there and play really well to try to come out on top,” said O’Meara, who finished runner-up at the Outback Steakhouse tournament in April. “It would mean a lot.”
No one really knows the terrain at the Colorado Golf Club all that well. Only 3 years old, the course hasn’t been played that often by pros who don’t live in the area.
But O’Meara does have some familiarity with it, having traveled here two summers ago to get a look at a challenging course that was co-designed by Ben Crenshaw.
Just like then, it’s still windy.
And just like then, it remains tricky to gauge, given the thin air.
“Not just the fact that we’re at 6,000 feet or whatever, and the ball’s going 10 to 12 percent farther, but there are a lot of uphill and downhill shots, quite dramatic on this golf course,” O’Meara said.
He found a way to combat that by sinking his putts. He was a putting prodigy Saturday as he had nine one-putts, draining birdies from off the green on the 10th and 17th holes.
“Made a lot of nice putts out there,” O’Meara said. “I’ve been practicing pretty hard at home and working on it.”
As for his game plan for Sunday, it’s actually quite simple.
“It’s going to be manage yourself, be patient, fight hard, just give yourself a chance,” O’Meara said.
MOVING DOWN: Tom Kite made a move in his round Saturday, just not the one he had in mind.
In fact, this may have dealt him a serious jolt to his title aspirations.
After moving to 7 under following a birdie on the third hole, Kite began to implode, dropping six shots over the next five holes to lose touch with the leaders.
He finished his round with a 79 to drop him to 1 over for the tournament. This after carding two straight rounds of 69.
Soon after finishing up his round, Kite preferred not to talk.
“You want to talk to the leaders,” he quipped.
Kite is attempting to become the oldest golfer to win the Senior PGA since the Champions Tour began in 1980. Hale Irwin currently has that distinction, winning the event in 2004 when he was just three days shy of his 59th birthday.
This didn’t help.
“Tom Kite is almost 61 years old and to me it’s amazing how well he plays and how far he still hits it,” said Lehman, who played in the same group as Kite. “He didn’t have his best day today, but he’s a great competitor.”
COURSE RECORD: For 20 minutes, David Frost stared at golfing great Tom Watson hitting shots on the driving green, looking for any tips he could borrow and incorporate into his own game.
Turns out, he picked a good swing model.
After watching Watson strike one crisp shot after another, Frost tried to emulate Watson’s hand positioning on the club. That tiny change helped Frost shoot a course-record 7-under 65 on Saturday.
“Unbeknownst to him, I did learn something from him,” said Frost, a 10-time winner on the PGA Tour. “I picked up a little grip change that I thought I should do. … I noticed his left hand is nice and strong on the golf club. I fiddled with my left hand and fiddled with my right hand. So, I made it a little stronger.”
Frost was up for just about anything, especially after shooting a 77 on Friday.
He never expected such instant results.
Frost carded seven birdies on a rather calm morning, allowing him to sneak his way back into the tournament as he sits at 2 under heading into the final 18 holes.
“Going out today you have nothing to lose,” the South African said. “You do know the golf course a little better, and so your attitude definitely changes a little bit. But you don’t want to go out there and freewheel too much.”
GOODES & PLENTY: Mike Goodes became a professional only two years ago when he turned 50, wanting to see if he had the game to play with the big boys of golf.
Heading into Sunday, he’s keeping pace.
Goodes is 4 under for the tournament after a solid round of 70 on Saturday.
“I made a lot of good pars and putted the ball really well. That saved my round,” said Goodes, who won the North Carolina Amateur in 1989 and 2006.
Away from the course, Goodes is co-owner of a plastic recycling company in Reidsville, N.C. His partner is holding down the fort while he’s at the Colorado Golf Club this week.
“I’m semiretired from that anyway,” Goodes said, grinning.
Leaving more time for, what else, golf.
“I’m just like thousands of other pretty good players who turn 50 and want to see if they can play,” Goodes said.
CHIP SHOTS: Six of the last eight winners of the Senior PGA have rallied from behind on the final afternoon. … Chip Beck has carded a 1-under 71 in all three rounds. … After shooting an 80 on Friday, Brad Bryant responded with a 67. He’s at 1 under for the tournament.