Tom Kite, 51 years old and the U.S. Open winner at Pebble Beach in 1992, surveyed the work left after his tee shot. The ball had hooked when it should have faded, and it ended up in another county. But Kite stroked, and it rolled, rolled, and rolled, right in the heart of the cup on the other side of the green.
It highlighted a sparkling round of 64 Sunday, tied for the lowest score of the tournament. The Senior Tours Hale Irwin had been tied for the lead at the end of the first day. But Kite was the low Senior at the end of the championship at 1-over-par.
His secret? He went to the back side of the driving range before play began Saturday. The shots from that side are a little uphill and right-to-left into the wind, giving the player a little more realistic shot than the downhill flight from the more conventional position.
I felt so much better from that end, said Kite. What it did was stop me from hanging on my left side. I never was getting back to the ball. I discovered it yesterday afternoon and my play was vastly improved today.
His short game, of course, has been sparkling all week. Hes scrambled well, played bunker shots well, and putted well. What he hasnt done ' before Sunday ' is hit the ball from tee to green.
And that is what Ive done so well the last two years, he said. But I just started hanged back a little this week. I felt like it was just a matter of time before I started hitting the ball well. It took me until last night to figure it out. But when I hit a good 3-wood off the tee and a nice 9-iron in to about four feet, I said, Here we go!
Sixty-four in a major championship is very low, and Im quite pleased with it.
Southern Hills is the ideal place for a golfer such as Kite or Irwin. We talked about that early in week, said Kite. Its a good golf course for both Hale and I. I thought Hale was going to play well the way he did the first day, and really, Im surprised that he hasnt followed it up with some more Hale Irwin-type rounds.
No one is surprised, though, by Kites play. When the course plays tough, you can expect to see Kites name.
I love difficult conditions, said Kite. Youve got the windy weather like this, I grew up in Texas where we always had to deal with wind, and I just love hitting conditions like this. I had it in 92 at the Open, and certainly this golf course, while nothing like Pebble Beach, is a golf course with a lot of wind and clubbing is very, very difficult. You have to hit solid golf shots on a course like this, and that is what I did today.