Notes From the US Senior Open - Thursday

Inverness 2011 Senior Open-6909

it’s the first full day of competition, I’m exhausted and my feet have the beginnings of blisters. Eschewing the opportunity to report from the air conditioned, food, drink and ice cream-supplied media tent, I’ve spent my time hoofing it around the course.

The weather today is brutal. After just four holes of walking, I was drenched in sweat. The humidity is as bad as anything I experienced growing up in Maryland. I’m an usually fit walker, but I found it draining. Conditions have got to be wearing down the competitors even after the first day.

All the scoring for the day seems to be done on the front nine—whether the players started on one, or ten. From thirteen through eighteen, most seem to be doing well just to hold on. Looking at the leaderboards, I can’t see a single player picking up shots after twelve.

The front nine, on the other hand, is playing much easier, with guys going four and five under.

The crowds are what I would describe as moderate. There are more here than I remember seeing on the opening days of the Buick, but not as many as at the PGA at Oakland Hills or the Crowne Plaza on Thursday in Fort Worth. The grandstands were about half full, and even following a big name group (Langer and O’Meara), I didn’t have trouble finding open spots to watch the action.

For my money, the best places to stay cool and see some golf are sitting in the stands on twelve and fourteen. The tops of those bleachers are partially shaded throughout much of the day. The grandstands on eighteen, on the other hand, take a beating from the sun the entire day. Those dark green seats should be bleached white by week’s end.

Pete Senior made a run at the top late, but hit the dreaded back nine and slipped away. He went to six under on ten, but dropped to four under by fourteen. He dropped another on sixteen.

Random Thought from my notebook: Does anyone have more hair than Tommy Armour III? It looks like a mop sticking up out of that visor. Same with Bernhard Langer.

There was a scarcity of players on the driving range today. I walked by four or five times throughout the day and saw just a couple each time. My guess is that it’s too hot for them. Ben Crenshaw was out there, though.

a little inside media:

Following each players’ round, they’re generally available for a “Flash Interview,” which is held in an area just off the putting green, near the clubhouse. The Flash Interview area consists of two open ended tents: one for the players to stand in behind a mike, and facing it, another about twenty feet away, with a raised platform for a couple of video cameras. Reporters who want to talk to a specific player can get a USGA handler to bring them out from the locker room after a round. Players spend about fifteen minutes answering usually uninspired questions with as much good nature as possible: How were the conditions? How do you like the course? How did you feel? Do you like being at the top of the leaderboard? What’s the key to playing well here? (I’m hoping the questions get more probing as the week goes on).

After questions are finished, a player that is high on the leaderboard (or otherwise prominent) is whisked away via golf cart to the media tent where a moderator asks some better phrased questions, and then opens things up to the media.

For my money, the flash interview location is the place to be. I got to ask Mark O’Meara several specific questions about shots I saw him make (or not make). The main media tent wasn’t as useful—beat reporters are there in force, and it’s far away from my table spot, making it more difficult for me to read the player’s lips.

Missing the interviews, though, isn’t a big deal. There’s a transcript of each flash and media tent interview a few short minutes after. Reporters get them emailed, and copies on green paper also are available at the USGA media tent desk. That’s useful for your deaf GolfBlogger.

This leads to a curious situation, though: I really don’t know how many reporters actually make it out to the course. Certainly a question put to Mark O’Meara about putting woes indicated that particular reporter had no clue; O’Meara was in fact putting the lights out (this was before the television broadcast started). A casual observation indicates there is a cadre of reporters who spend their entire time in the media tent—with occasional trips to the nearby driving range and green for quotes.

A media tent veteran explained it to me: many of these guys already have their stories written. All they’re waiting for are names and quotes to drop into the appropriate spots. So there’s no need to go out and do any on-the-course work.

I’m reminded of a story that Ronald Reagan once told about his early days broadcasting baseball on the radio in Des Moines. There was no live feed, so Reagan took the telegraphed bulletins he received, and made the rest up to create the illusion of a live broadcast. He got away with it for a long time, until one day, there was a telegraph interruption. Reagan had just said “Here’s the pitch,” and then the line went out for seven minutes. Reagan said:

I had a ball on the way to the plate and there was no way to call it back. So, I had Augie foul this pitch down the left field line. He fouled for six minutes and forty-five seconds. My voice was riding in pitch and threatening to crack – and then, bless him, Curly started typing. I clutched at the slip. It said: ‘Galan popped out on the first ball pitched.’

No one, I suppose was the wiser. And I think no would be the wiser if a reporter’s entire story was done in his pajamas from his mom’s basement.

But then, that’d make him a blogger, right?

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