Well, first you have the influence of the mountains, the Cheyenne Mountains so close by, Coloradan Hale Irwin said. And that always was intriguing when we did play down here years ago, how the Texas and Florida guys would come up and theyd have no clue how to putt these greens.
Well, I welcome myself to that club now because its been a long time since weve played a course that has greens, A, this size; B, with this much contour in them; and C, with such an overpowering influence off the mountain.
Other courses have all of these elements but not to this degree. Add in altitude that affects approach shots and golfers entire games are affected by the unpredictable greens.
And thats before the USGAs often unfriendly pin placement is even taken into account.
What weve seen with the practice rounds are the hole locations they will not use because of how much break there is, Irwin said. So were trying to putt to where we anticipate other holes to be, but you never know. Thats the mystery of the USGA.
The par-70, 7,254-yard East Course is the longest for a U.S. Senior Open, surpassing the 7,117-yard Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, site of the 2004 championship.
The tee-to-green game is pretty straightforward, Irwin said. While not overbearing, its not easy because of the severity of the greens, because if you miss the fairway, the odds of you hitting the green or hitting in a position where you have any kind of a putt whatsoever are greatly diminished.
So, it sort of backs itself up. You look at hole location where youre going to have to be on that green where you have any kind of a putt, he added. And then it starts putting pressure on the second shot, on the drive to perform. And thats the way it should be.
Putts tend to break away from the west-to-east slope of the mountain. R.W. Eaks, a native of Colorado Springs, said it helps to locate the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun on the mountain and try to putt toward it.
Well, you got the shrine up there, OK, and you kind of have to triangulate where the shrine is and where youre putting. I know it sounds funny, but it really works, Eaks said. It just takes time to get used to it, but shoot, it took me a while to try and figure that out.
I dont know if Im going to make all my putts or not, but at least I know what direction theyre going.
Irwin said the influence of Cheyenne Mountain also speeds up the putts.
Some of the putts here will be faster in mid-roll than they are when you first hit it, so that becomes almost something that gets out of your control; hence, putting toward the mountain is going to be what we all try to do, he said.
OH WHAT A DRAG
At 72, Dale Douglass of Castle Rock, Colo., is the elder statesman of the field at the 29th U.S. Senior Open. He won the tournament in 1986 in his first try just four months after turning 50, the minimum age for the senior circuit.
Well, you might think you might know more at 72 than at 50. But the fact is that youve forgotten more. And that evens it out, so you dont have an advantage of wisdom, Douglass said.
It doesnt bother me. Im very fortunate to be healthy and able to play and able to walk this golf course at 72.
When he was introduced as the oldest golfer in the field, however, Douglass dropped his head.
I was hoping Gary Player is here because hes older than I am, see, but when he doesnt show, its me, said Douglass, who is four months younger than Player.
Douglass said it gets tougher and tougher every year, making the Champions Tour a young mans game.
Theres a rejuvenation out here because youre not intimidated when youre 50, he said. Youre not intimidated by any of the other players because you hit it further and straighter and you putt better.
Douglass, who first played The Broadmoor at the 1959 U.S. Amateur championship that launched Jack Nicklauss career, is playing in his 23rd Senior Open, two shy of Arnold Palmers mark.
Theres some of his other records that I would have preferred to have challenged, Douglass said.
R.W. Eaks won the Champions Tour 3M Championship in Blaine, Minn., earlier this month with the help of a golf cart, which the USGA doesnt allow in the U.S. Senior Open.
Both of Eaks knees need replacement. He couldnt walk up stairs in December, and twice this year has withdrawn from tournaments because he could barely get out of a cart.
The 56-year-old Eaks said hes not anticipating any problems, however, walking the 7,254-yard East Course, the longest ever for a Senior Open.
Hes been wearing FDA-approved electrical stimulation braces on his legs while he sleeps.
Just in the last few days Ive noticed a big difference, Eaks said.
Dave Delich, 51, of Colorado Springs, may have an experience advantage this week over the rest of the field. Delich is a member at the Broadmoor and a six-time Broadmoor Golf Club champion. He also won the 2007 Colorado State Senior Amateur and the 1997 Colorado State Mid-Amateur. Australian Graham Marsh withdrew from the tournament Wednesday and was replaced by alternate Steve Heckel, of Carterville, Ill. Until he played three practice rounds here this month, Irwin said it had been at least 42 years since he played the East Course.