Friday it was Argentine Vincente Fernandez. Coupling his own brand of Watson Magic with a few lucky bounces and spectacular play, he treated Inverness like it was own personal playpen. When it was over, he had fired a 64 to open up a one-shot lead over Watson at the halfway point of the U.S. Senior Open.
Watson had a 66 in the first round, but could do no better than a 1-over 72 Friday. Fernandez opened with 73 Thursday, making what he called mental errors on four holes. But in the second round, he made birdies on the bookends, going birdie-birdie-eagle on his second, third and forth holes, then finishing his round with three straight birdies.
I dont think anybody can anticipate shooting 64 on this course, said Fernandez. I just felt that I was striking the ball well. I was confident that I (would) shoot par or under par today, but no ' no 64. That was not even in my dreams.
He got a couple of birdies after his drives went into the rough. He holed a putt from 30 feet.
But he threw in some remarkable shot-making, too. He made the eagle after a 6-iron from 202 yards wound up just six inches from the hole. He hit a 9-iron to three feet, hit a sand wedge inside of a foot, and two other times hit sand wedges inside 10 feet.
Today I didnt (make mental mistakes), he said. In the middle of the round, I made pars that kept me going. And then on the last few holes, I hit good shots and I took advantage of that.
Watson and Bruce Lietzke were briefly tied for the lead at 5-under par earlier in the afternoon, but Lietzke knocked the ball into a creek beside the fifth green (his 14th) for a double bogey and bogeyed his last hole ' the ninth. Watson also bogeyed his last ' the 18th ' when he put the ball in a back bunker with a 9-iron and failed to get it up-and-down.
Those birdies are like markers in your pocket that you know you are going to have to cash in eventually, said Lietzke, who finished with a 71 to remain at 2-under. Youve got to spend those markers wisely. Everyone is going to make their share of bogeys around here, and double bogeys are very easy to make. Youve got to build up the birdies because you know that somewhere, sooner or later, the bogeys are coming.
It happens, said Lietzke, and there is much more drama that is going to occur. There are lots of bogeys that are looming in everyones future, as well as a few birdies.
I knew going into a USGA event or Senior PGA that bogeys happen, whether you hit perfect golf shots or beautiful golf shots or your strategy has been exactly the way you wanted it, he said. Bogeys still show up on these kinds of golf courses when the golf courses are set up this way.
There is nobody in this field that will go this weekend without making at least five bogeys. Everybody in the field will make at least that much. So I just wanted to get my share of birdies to offset those mistakes.
Watson was sailing along with a 6-under total until he made a three-putt bogey at No. 15, and then bogeyed the last.
He admitted he was fooled by a course which took half an inch of rain Thursday evening, softening it enough that golfers could sometimes shoot at the pins with a little more impunity than in Round 1.
I was thinking, just put the ball in the fairway and see if we can get the ball close enough to the hole to make a few putts today, Watson said. And I did put the ball in the fairway, but I didnt get the ball very close to the hole. That was my problem.
But I did play well enough today. I put the ball in play off the tee very well. My play was pretty scratchy, not very good, and left me a lot of long putts, 30 to 40 to 50 feet. You dont want those type of putts on these greens.
Its a little like the blind leading the blind where Inverness is concerned, believes Watson. They dont play the course on any of the tour stops. Everyone is kind of feeling his way around the narrow fairways and strange greens.
Thats the problem you face playing Inverness, he said. If the greens are soft, you can get the ball to the hole ' you still have a lot of break with the putts. Enter the fact that most of the players here havent played here very much, and this is a brand new golf course. So they dont know the intricacies of the golf course.
This is my fourth championship here (in a 31-year career) and I know a little bit more about the golf course than most of the guys who play here, I guess. It does help me, I think, but it didnt help me a couple of holes today.