Tom Watson practices Wednesday at Crooked Stick

By Associated PressJuly 29, 2009, 4:00 pm
CARMEL, Ind. ' Fuzzy Zoeller recites his winning philosophy like its on speed dial.
 
Or perhaps he just remembers Crooked Sticks history.
 
The 1979 Masters winner contends it will take someone who can hit long, accurate drives and repeatedly find the proper placements on these sloping greens to win this years U.S. Senior Open title. Someone like John Daly, who zoomed into the spotlight with his grip-it-and-rip-it strategy at the 1991 PGA Championship here. Someone like big-hitting 17-year-old Maria Uribe, who won the 2007 U.S. Womens Amateur here.
 
Now, the senior tour is looking to add another chapter on the longest course in Senior Open history at 7,316 yards.
 
The only thing that scared me was when (course designer) Pete Dye got up and said he had stretched the golf course out to 7,306 or something, Zoeller said. I had to speak right after him and I said, Oh, Pete, Pete, youre losing the fact that were over 50 years old. Were trying to bring it back to us so we can have some fun.
 
The USGA didnt do Zoeller and the other 155 players expected to start Thursdays first round any favors like shortening the course. It could be argued that it wouldnt have been necessary, especially after 59-year-old Tom Watson nearly beat the youngsters at the British Open two weeks ago.
 
The bad news: 7,316 yards could be the short end.
 
With forecasters calling for rain into Thursday afternoon, weather could certainly make the course play longer. Zoeller, a local favorite who lives about 120 miles away, noted that his second practice round Tuesday, in warmer conditions than Monday, seemed to shorten things up just a bit.
 
Who will contend?
 
Defending champion Eduardo Romero of Argentina survived a tough back nine last year and returns with more knowledge about coping with nerves on Sunday afternoons. He ranks seventh on the tour this season with an average drive of 288.4 yards, a number that could keep him near the top of the leaderboard this weekend.
 
I think its very important, very important to have a few extra yards this week, Romero said. But I think the course is a fantastic course from the tee to the green. I have to play chip good, putting good, then you have to be full game in good condition.
 
Watson could be there, too. He is playing his best golf in more than a decade and comes to Carmel as the sentimental favorite, if not the overall favorite, after missing an 8-foot putt on No. 18 for the win at Turnberry two weeks ago. He lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink, then rallied to finish in the top 10 last weekend at the Senior British Open.
 
As he prepares for his third major in three weeks, Watson made an adjustment to his short game that he hopes will help claim his first Senior Open title. But Watson also is dealing with an illness that forced him to skip Tuesdays practice round.
 
The biggest concern I have is preparedness, he said. Its going to be difficult for me to be properly prepared for this tournament. Ill probably play somewhat conservatively opening it up, you know, not knowing the golf course so well and watch my fellow players play.
 
Among the other big names in the field are two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer and two-time British Open winner Greg Norman.
 
Langer, 51, has the best scoring average on tour this season (68.65) and ranks in the top 10 in driving distance and No. 1 in greens in regulation (76.85 percent) ' a combination that could make him a real threat.
 
Norman spent last weekend battling in Britain. The 54-year-old led after three rounds but opened the final round by missing birdie chances on the first three holes and then settling for a double bogey on No. 17 to finish sixth, three strokes behind champion Loren Roberts.
 
I feel my game is fairly solid, actually, Norman said. I have no complaints at the moment. Im just a little bit like anybody would say coming off playing golf in Europe for two weeks then getting over here, its bit of a slug on us. But it is what it is.
 
Yes, Norman, Zoeller and Watson all remember how Daly won at Crooked Stick and realize this weekend could be a hitters paradise.
 
Its a long-ball hitters golf-course, always has been. I think if youre driving the ball well and youre a long hitter, you should fare fairly well this week, Zoeller said. But theres one thing about winning an Open, or a British Open, youve got to have patience galore because some crazy things are going to happen and youve just got to bear it. Its going to be a long week.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Senior Open
  • Getty Images

    Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

    By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

    Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

    On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

    In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

    Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

    Getty Images

    Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

    Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

    He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

    McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

    "That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

    Check out the full interview below:

    Getty Images

    Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

    By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

    Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

    He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

    He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

    He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

    And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

    While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

    The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

    Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

    Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

    Getty Images

    Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

    By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

    In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

    Made Cut

    Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

    The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

    To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

    Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

    Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.



    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

    The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

    “Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

    Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

    Tweet of the week:

    Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

    “No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”


    Missed Cut

    Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

    As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

    Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

    In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

    Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

    Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

    In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

    The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

    “The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

    Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.