WALTON ON THE HILL, England – Five Things from Round 2 of the Senior British Open:
1.) Off again on again flatstick – Tom Watson’s putting has been a source of consternation to the eight time major winner over the last dozen or so years.
When the flat stick is working properly he can compete on the big tour in certain circumstances, as he did last week at the Open Championship, finishing T-22.
When it’s misbehaving, like it did in Thursday’s first round of the Senior British Open, it can be a struggle. On Friday it was very obedient.
“I was putting for 18 birdies today,” an excited Watson said after a 4-under, 68. Even though I didn’t get it real close to the hole today with my iron play, I was happy about hitting 17 of 18 greens.”
Watson finished by making a 20-footer on the last hole to get into red numbers for the championship, six back of the trio of Mark Calcavecchia, Lee Rinker and Rod Spittle.
Watson now has a chance to win his third Senior Open Championship and 15th Champions Tour title, if the putter cooperates.
“Gotta shoot low,” Watson said of his weekend mindset. “Unless we get a lot of wind, this golf course is soft enough where you can make some birdies out there, but again the key to this golf course is driving the ball in the fairway, out of the heather, out of the bunkers.”
2.) Champions Tour of bust – Michael Allen had a goal when he turned pro in 1984, to win on the PGA Tour. It would be a goal he would repeat over and over again as he got older. Even when he won the 2009 Senior PGA Championship, Allen wanted to still win on the PGA Tour.
While Allen still has that same goal, reality is setting in and without much status on the big tour, Allen is ready to be a Champions tour player full time.
“I’m going to probably play Reno in a few weeks and that will be about it,” Allen said after making the cut at The Senior Open Championship. “I don’t really have status anymore, so if I won Reno I would play a lot if I could get status out there. I just don’t like playing the tournaments I don’t enjoy playing.”
Allen bounced up and down from the Nationwide tour to the PGA Tour his whole career, winning only once on the then-Nike tour (the Greater Austin Open in 1998). With only one other win at the Bell’s Scottish Open in 1989, Allen’s record of wins is limited to the three, but with more potential and possibilities on the Champions Tour.
“I’m happy with it,” Allen said. “I played, as long as I could and the one thing I always wanted to do, I didn’t do, but that’s all right. I fed my kids for 20 years and it’s not bad.”
3.) I was thinking of 1996 – Steve Jones struggled in the first round of the U.S. Open at Oakland Hills in 1996 shooting a 74, but made up for it with rounds of 66-69-69 to win his only major championship.
When Jones opened with a 73 in Thursday’s first round of the Senior Open Championship he thought back to Oakland Hills and 15 years ago.
“I knew if I could get a low one I could get right back in this,” Jones said after shooting a 2-under 70.
Now the question is at 1-under can he catch the trio at the top of Calcavecchia, Rinker and Spittle?
4.) Ties that bind – James Braid lived 80 years, but most of his adult life was spent at Walton Heath as its professional. From 1904, just after the club opened in 1950, when the five time Open champion died, Braid was at Walton Heath.
In his days he spent most of his time in a pro shop, which still stands. It measured 18 feet by 15 feet and had a club-making facility in the back that wasn’t much bigger.
In his heyday of clubmaking, Braid employed 7 assistants and apprentices, mainly making woods from scratch. The irons were forged in Scotland and sent down for final assembly.
During his life, Braid showed his skills hardly diminished, as he got older. When he was 68, Braid shot a 64 on the new course and when he was 78, he shot 74 on the old. He even had his last of 18 holes-in-one at age 79 and recorded a two on every hole at Walton Heath at least once in his lifetime.
Pretty remarkable stuff.
5.) Flying on a jet plane – 76 players made the cut at Walton Heath and 20 of the top 29 are from the U.S., including leaders Lee Rinker and Mark Calcavecchia.
Defending champion Bernhard Langer is at 2-over, nine shots behind the leaders.
Nick Price playing in his first Senior Open Championship is also at 2-over for the championship.
Craig Stadler withdrew before the start of the round for medical reasons. David Russell retired after 12 holes due to a knee injury and Massy Kuramoto retired after three holes today with a shoulder injury.