WALTON ON THE HILL, England – Five Things from Saturday’s third round of the Senior Open Championship:
1.) Keeping his head – In Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If…,” the English scribe opens with “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. . .”
That’s exactly what David Frost did on Saturday with a bogey-free 6-under 66. Frost methodically moved up the leaderboard and eventually was tied for the lead when Mark Calcavecchia triple bogeyed the 13th hole.
“I’ve got myself right in there now,” Frost said after the only blemish-free round of the day. “Another round like this would be great, but you don’t go out here and plan things like this. You just go out and try to play one shot at a time, and just try to commit yourself to every shot.”
2.) Feeding off each other – Chip Beck and Russ Cochran started six groups behind the leaders, but it didn’t take long for the duo to get in the mix. Cochran birdied his first three holes to move from 2 under to 5 under and eventually would turn in 4-under 32, just a couple of shots behind Calcavecchia, who started off slowly.
Beck, not to be outdone by his playing competitor, also turned in 32 and stayed with Cochran.
“I think we both fed off of each other,” Beck said. “It definitely helps to play with somebody you’re comfortable with and someone that’s playing well. It was a good day for us.”
Cochran also is ready for Sunday’s final round.
“I’ve played well this year and challenged a few times, and have not rung the bell,” the left-hander said. “I think the great thing about what I’ve been doing with my game the last two or three years is getting in contention, and maybe I’m just hard-headed or whatever, but I feel like I’m going to win. I’m sure when I play tomorrow I’ll have that same feeling.”
3.) What could have been – John Cook made six birdies over the first 11 holes and briefly went from contender to leader. But it all turned on the 12th hole and snowballed with four bogeys over the last seven holes, turning a gem into a disappointment.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it,” Cook said of the difficulties he had coming in. “There’s some good holes coming in, starting at 12. Greens this late in the day get a little inconsistent, but you have to deal with that.”
Cook shot 67 in Friday’s second round to get into a position to make a charge on the weekend. But even on Friday he had to make some crucial saves to keep the round going. Similar key saves were not made Saturday.
“I just didn’t hit some good shots coming in,” Cook said. “Three-putted 16, didn’t get it up and down on 12, 13 and 14 when I probably should have, after hitting good driver.”
Cook looked up at the board after his round and found he was only three out of the lead. That offered some solace, considering his round could have been really low.
4.) Amateurs – Only two non-professionals made the cut, but the question of who will finish as top amateur is not in much doubt. Paul Simson, an insurance executive from Raleigh, N.C., who has won almost everything in senior amateur golf, stumbled Saturday, shooting 3-over 75, while Randy Haag from the Olympic Club in San Francisco shot 4-under 68. Haag, at 1 under for the championship, has a six-shot lead over Simson.
5.) Leading – The winner of the Senior Open Championship takes home $351,600 for his effort. However, recent history seems to favor somebody who’s not setting the pace going into the final day.
Sorry, Calcavecchia, Cochran and Frost, but the leaders of the past eight Champions Tour events have gone on to lose.
Saturday’s leaders and co-leaders have gone on to win only four of the previous 14 events on the 2011 Champions Tour. The last leader entering the final round to go on and win was John Cook, who had a one-shot edge before the final day of the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in April and eventually won in a playoff.
The last 54-hole leader/co-leader to win a major championship on the Champions Tour was Bernhard Langer at last year’s U.S. Senior Open near Seattle.