Players Preparing for Open Test

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For the 22nd time Arnold Palmer will compete in the U.S. Senior Open. He missed the inaugural event in 1980, but won in his first try the following year. The victory is but one of 92 worldwide wins, including seven major championships on the regular tour and five on the Senior circuit.
 
But despite all he's achieved, Palmer was pleased just to be addressing the media Wednesday morning.
 
Being here, you guys listening to me, me sitting here talking, thats a great accomplishment to me, that you still want to hear me, Palmer said. As Eddie Murphy would say, Simple as that.
 
'Simple' doesnt describe this years U.S. Senior Open. The event will be contested for the first time at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Baltimore, Md., on a 7,005-yard par-71 layout.
 
The fairways are spacious and the greens are fast but fair. However, the course is quite hilly, and the United States Golf Association wont allow the elders the use of carts. Throw in temperatures reaching the upper-80s, with a palpable humidity, and the Seniors are in for a four-day endurance test.
 
If the heat and humidity kills me this week, its the best way I know to die, the 72-year-old Palmer joked, adding he loved the location.
 
I can tell you that its probably as good a Senior Open venue as I have seen in the (23) years of the Senior Open, he said.
 
Palmer said he shot a forgiving 71 in his Saturday practice round. And despite the USGAs track record, many in the field this week think that low scores are possible.
 
Sunday, I played here for the first time and shot 65, said Hale Irwin.
 
Irwin, who won this event in 1998 and 2000, is among the favorites this week, thanks in part to his conditioning.
 
I think its going to be a course thats made for the fittest, Irwin said. I would hate to be out of shape and trying to walk around this place, and expect to play the best of golf.
 
Irwin is trying to put behind him an embarrassing performance two weeks ago in the U.S. Open on Long Island. The 57-year-old received a sponsors exemption into the tournament he has won three times, but could only muster scores of 82-81 on the Black Course.
 
Ive sort of picked up the pieces from Bethpage, and there were a lot of pieces to pick up, he said. Ive heard some of the other players comment this week on how difficult this course is. And I said you should have been up the road a couple of weeks ago.
 
Despite being the reigning U.S. Senior Open champion, Bruce Fleisher declined his invitation to play with the younger set at Bethpage ' a decision that drew the ire of many, including Irwin and Tom Kite, who also missed the cut at Bethpage.
 
I saw the course; I thought it was unplayable for my game. I was willing to pass my spot on to some young, aspiring golf professional, Fleisher explained Wednesday. I understand where Hale and Kite were coming from. I think in their hearts they felt I would be a wonderful representative of the Senior Tour. But it was my choice ' it wasnt theirs ' and you have to respect it.
 
Fleisher bypassed the U.S. Open to compete in the BellSouth Senior Classic, where he and others were afforded a free cancer screening. Test results showed the 53-year-old might have prostate cancer.
 
I plan on going in Monday after this week and having some work done, Fleisher said. As far as really thinking about it, no, no. Im thinking the best, you know.
 
Fleisher won last years event by posting an even-par total, and then waiting while others crumbled coming home.
 
Such a scenario could be possible this week, as the final stretch of holes features the 215-yard par-3 15th; the 430-yard par-4 16th; the 455-yard par-4 17th; and the 464-yard par-4 18th.
 
There will be a lot of complaints about how long 17 is, said Tom Watson. I think it shows 465 (yards) on the tee but the person who did the yardage by laser says 480. And its straight uphill.
 
Several may complain ' about the length, the weather, the walking, or all of the above ' but the oldest player in the field wont be among them.
 
When you start complaining about walking and the heat and humidity, the hell with that. Just go home and sit in front of the TV and have a beer, Palmer said.
 
Full coverage of the 23rd U.S. Senior Open