Thursday was one of those days for Watson in the opening round of the U.S. Senior Open. He hit most of the fairways, made most long putts, and coasted in with a 65.
I dont know what got into me, Watson admitted afterwards. Today was one of those days that the putter ' everything worked well with the putter. I made a lot of long putts. And when you make a lot of long putts, you keep the ball in play, you only miss two fairways, you ought to shoot a pretty good score here at Inverness.
This was a true Open course, with the opinion mixed on the lightning speed of the greens, the narrow fairways and the way the balls roll in the short grass. Bruce Lietzke, for one, was perfectly comfortable with the way Inverness was set up. Lietzke is runner-up to last year's runner-up with a 2-under 69 after the first day of play.
Inclement weather suspended first-round play. Only four players finished the day under par. Mike McCullough and J.C. Snead each had 1-under 70.
Its a real strategy golf course when you dont just grab a driver and whale away at it, Lietzke said. So you really have to think your way around the golf course and there (are) a lot of opportunities to make mistakes out there ' not only if you dont hit the ball straight, which is typical of a U.S. Open, but now you can really mis-club off the tee several times.
I have never seen a pro go 18 holes without hitting a driver and I saw it today (his playing partner, Gil Morgan). He has me thinking that might be the way to go. I might carry a driver out there just to have a casual-water relief club, because thats the longest club in my bag.
Watson was the big hitter, of course, but some people will remind that he started the U.S. Open two weeks ago with a 65, then faded steadily as the week went on.
I didnt have the tools, he admitted. The tool box was shut. I had a few good runs there, but I didnt hit the ball in the fairway enough.
I kept missing fairways, especially in the third round. I think I only hit eight fairways in the third round, so you cant compete in any golf tournament when you hit eight fairways, unless the rough in non-existent.
But even Watson, who lost in a playoff last year to Don Pooley, marveled at what he did Thursday. He made seven birdies on what was a very difficult course.. He missed just two fairways. He made one putt of 45 feet. He made two other birdie putts of 35 feet, a couple from 25 feet, and a 15-footer. And he chipped one in for yet another bird.
I played well, he said in an understatement. I mean, I hit a lot of good, quality shots. I kept the ball in the fairway I turned a 71 into a 65 with good long putts and chipping ' the Watson roll. I broke a lot of peoples hearts making a lot of putts out there.
And Watson watched his playing partners, Fuzzy Zoeller and Jose Maria Canizares, intently when they were on the greens. On several occasions he followed them in the putting order, reading the breaks off of them and then making his.
They were important, agreed Watson. I had two or three putts that I had a good read from my playing partner ' either Jose or Fuzzy. And that definitely was an advantage. It goes to show you that if you are hitting inside of your playing partners, you get some benefit from it.
As opposed to Lietzke and Morgan, Zoller found that the driver was far preferable to the 3-wood.
My 3-wood had a minor virus in it, he joked. Once I accepted the fact that it was not going to cooperate, I put it in the bag and started hitting the driver. That seemed to work pretty well.