The 37th United States Senior Open is at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to being right in my backyard, playing over a classic Donald Ross and being a national championship, the nice folks at the USGA were kind enough to grant me a media credential for the week! So I’ll be on the grounds early and often to cover the action, and if I’m being honest, I’m more than a little nervous about committing some sort of faux pas in the media center. Anxiety aside, I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to be at a USGA championship, and really looking forward to the action. My previous run-ins with USGA events include caddying for a friend several years ago in local US Open qualifying and taking in a day of Sectional qualifying as a spectator a couple years back, both of which are two of my favorite experiences around the game.
I fully realize this may be off a lot of your radars this weekend, what with the John Deere (rightfully) capturing the lion’s share of media attention, and oh yeah, the Olympic men’s golf also going down. But I wanted to cobble together a preview of sorts to hopefully spark your interest to catch some of the action, or at the very least, give you an option to fill that dreaded double-commercial space. So without further ado, here we go…
8 Thoughts on the U.S. Senior Open:
1) 2016 represents Scioto Country Club’s centennial. Designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1916, Scioto got a bit of a touch up some fifty years ago by Dick Wilson and again several years back by Jack Nicklaus. Maybe somewhat of an afterthought when it comes to championship venues in the Columbus area, due largely the immense shadow Jack casts out at Muirfield Village, Scioto needn’t take a backseat to any venue, anywhere, when it comes to pedigree or tradition. This weekend’s tournament marks the fourth USGA championship contested here (1926 US Open, 1968 US Amateur and 1986 US Senior Open) to go along with the 1931 Ryder Cup and 1950 PGA Championship. In fact, per the fine folks at Wikipedia, Scioto is one of only four courses in the United States to host a US Open, US Amateur, PGA Championship, and Ryder Cup. The other three are Oak Hill, Oakland Hills, and Pinehurst #2.
2) Some quick tournament facts via the USGA: Scioto will play this week as a 7,100 yard, par 70. It’s course rating is 75.6 with a slope of 143. There are 156 people in the field, whittled down from about 2,800 total entrants. Of the 156 guys in the field, 23 have amateur status. All must be at least 50 years of age as of tomorrow’s first round to be eligible. The average age of the field is about 55 years old, with Dave Eichelberger the elder statesman at 72 years young.
3) If you have an itch that can only be scratched by hitting up your local book maker, I can report that the betting co-favorites appear to be Miguel Angel Jimenez and Bernhard Langer at about 5/1. Next comes the Big Fijian at around 8/1 and Monty at 12/1. I admittedly have little idea about anybody’s form except that it seems like Bernhard wins everything, but as it’s no fun to go with the favorite, I’ll hypothetically back Monty, Kenny Perry (around 35/1) and Woody Austin (around 40/1) this week.
4) Aside from the betting favorites highlighted above, there’s plenty of other name-recognition in the field this week. John Daly makes his US Senior Open debut. Tom Watson is here, and I can tell you from having followed him for a couple holes in a practice round this morning, the ball still just sounds and looks different coming off his clubface. Major winners competing this week include Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara, Lee Janzen, Mark Calcavecchia, Jeff Sluman, Ian Woosnam, Mark Brooks, Bob Tway, Larry Mize, Todd Hamilton, Scott Simpson, and Hale Irwin (in addition to the guys I’ve already mentioned and the one or two I no doubt glossed over).
5) The big name guys are all well and good, and I’m legitimately excited to see Vijay and Monty, but what really gets my juices flowing are the names deeper in the field. For example, the freaking Boss of the Moss, Loren Roberts, is playing–that remains my favorite nickname in golf. Esteban Toledo is in the cut and I’ll be damned if I don’t drop a gleeful “Holy Toledo!” after a munched drive in honor of Tron Carter. No Laying Up spiritual founder Tommy Armour III is here! Always an honor to share airspace with TA3. Finally, a plethora of grinders from my formative years will be strolling the grounds, guys like Scott Verplank, Jeff Maggert (defending champion btw), Billy Andrade, Scott Dunlap, Duffy Waldorf (my fantasy team name this year is The Duffing Waldorfs), and Billy Mayfair. It’ll be a pleasure to check in on them, and many others. Makes me feel good that they’re still out here plying their craft week to week.
6) Three random tidbits about Scioto that may or may not impress your friends:
-Samuel P. Bush, George H.W.’s grandfather and Dubya’s great-grandfather, was a club co-founder.
-Under the tutelage of Jack Grout, Jack Nicklaus learned the game as a kid growing up at Scioto.
-Robert T. Jones Jr. won the 1926 US Open by a stroke over Joe Turnesa. It was the second of four US Open’s for Jones and also one-half of a US Open/Open Championship double that year, making him the first person to accomplish that feat.
7) If you’re looking to mix in some Senior action this weekend alongside the Olympics and John Deere, Fox has the broadcast rights. They’re showing the first two rounds on FS1 from 2-7pm (EDT), with the weekend action moving over to Fox for a 2-6pm (EDT) window. Additionally, the USGA will stream live video throughout the tournament at their website (www.usga.org). I’ve enjoyed Fox’s coverage of all the USGA events, and particularly liked the job they did this year with the US Open. It was very clean presentation, placing the golf front and center with some value-adding graphics sprinkled in. I hope they give this weekend’s coverage the same touch.
8) In addition to watching the gentlemen I discussed in section #5 above, what excites me most about this weekend is carving out time to follow some amateurs. First and foremost, I greatly respect their game. Secondly, I think it’s cool they have maintained amateur status this long and still have the drive (and talent) to compete at the highest level. Lastly, most of them have incredibly interesting backstories which I love to learn about. In my opinion, the joy of going to a golf tournament isn’t following somebody heavily saturated in coverage like John Daly, it’s learning about and seeking out the ‘no-names.’ Added bonus this weekend, based on some practice round walks, is a lot of these guys have homemade, unorthodox moves they put on the ball. Love to watch guys with unique swings. Gives me (false) hope that maybe one day I could do that.
Anyway, there are a couple of amateurs in particular I want to highlight as guys I’ll definitely be catching up with:
Mike McCoy: straight up USGA menace (this will be 47th appearance). From Iowa, Mike competed in the 2014 Masters thanks to his victory at the 2013 Mid-Am. Was a member of the 2015 Walker Cup team at the age of 52 (only guy over 40 on the team, and only one of two over the age of 22!). As his Iowa Golf Hall of Fame resume shows, the dude has terrorized the state for more than 30 years. Was low amateur in first two US Senior Opens in 2014 and 2015, and appears not only primed for that honor again, but to perhaps be in the hunt come Sunday.
Patrick Tallent: a 1983 inductee into the George Washington University Athletic Hall of Fame, Pat’s ‘tallents’ (sorry) were on the basketball court. He finished his GW career having scored more than 1,700 points. Shortly thereafter he was drafted in the 6th round by the Washington Bullets, though according to my research on Basketball Reference, didn’t make the team out of camp and never recorded any stats in the Association. Impressive nonetheless. Not playing basketball must have afforded Pat with ample time to play golf, as he has gone on to have an illustrious amateur career, including Senior Amateur championships both here (USGA) and across the pond (R&A). Plays out of the
Democratic Republic of Congo Club in Washington, DC. Can’t wait to see what kind of move Pat (6’3 according to his GW profile) puts on the ball.
If you would like pithy observations and what not throughout the weekend, I’ll be at @BigRandyNLU on twitter. Enjoy all the golf this weekend!