Wednesday was another full day of practice at the US Senior Open, with players—and caddies—making their final preparations. One of the neat scenes I saw late in the day was a lone caddy rolling balls to different locations on the green and making notes in a book. It looked as though he had a portable hole that he was rolling the ball toward—perhaps a vinyl cutout the size of a regulation cup.
The players also were taking extra time on putts and around the greens today—more than Monday or Tuesday. There were a lot of practice putts to different locations—usually in a direction away from the current hole location. I wonder if the USGA had put the Wednesday practice holes in locations that were unlikely to be used in competition.
I spent some time talking to the Rangers to see how the players were handling various holes. These guys stand around on the holes all day long spotting balls and probably know more about how a hole’s playing than anyone on the course.
Fourteen is to me one of the more interesting holes on the course (seen above, from behind the green). It’s a 445 yard par 4 that curves to the left through a wooded area with trees and a creek right, and trees and a hillside left. The goal here has to be to get the ball to the outside of the curve off the tee—without rolling it through to the rough—or worse, the creek. From the outside, you’ve got a good look at the green. But from the inside, you get stuck, and will be forced to shoot at the right side of the green (or try to hook it around).
What the Marshalls noted was that most guys were hitting the ball to a spot on the fairway that’s about 180 to the center of the green. That’s near the stand of trees in the left of the photo.
The green (as shown in the photo above, and in my sketch, left) presents another problem. Using the reverse directions shown above, you’ll see that the entire green slopes left to the creek. Balls hit in the left front are pretty much automatically going to roll down. Shots from out of the bunker also are problematic because of the green’s slope. Players trying this shot saw their balls roll away quickly past the hole.
There are some comfy looking stands behind this green and I plan to spend some time there watching.
My guess though, is that the toughest will be sixteen (above). From the stands, I observed several players over a short period of time (including Bob Tway, pictured below) put balls into the trees on the right side of the fairway. The Marshalls said that there were a score of balls in the creek and woods, and a couple in the creek fronting the fairway, near the two bridges.
“They’re either hitting draws that don’t finish, or they’re getting greedy in trying to place the shot on the right,” one Marshall noted.
The yardage book for this says that the far side of the second bridge on the right is 253 from the pro tees. Not a problem, except when the hole is playing into the wind as it was the other day. But even from there, it’s still 200 yards, sharply uphill to a green that sloped front to back. Not only will balls roll off the front, but the green falls off severely to both the left and right. I watched several well struck balls check up short on the upslope, and others hit the sides, and then roll off.
One of the highlights of my day, however, was meeting Dave Marr of The Golf Channel. When he found I was a “rookie” in the media tent, he took me to the driving range, putting green and locker room to meet several of the players, including Jim Thorpe, Bob Tway and Larry Mize. He also offered some real encouragement that made me feel a little less awkward (yes, I’m feeling a bit out-of-place there). Marr is a very generous guy.