Short course still provides challenge at Senior Open

Tom Lehman plays his tee shot on the 13th hole during a practice round at the 2012 U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich. on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

Tom Lehman plays his tee shot on the 13th hole during a practice round at the 2012 U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich. on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

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LAKE ORION, Mich. – All you men out there – especially senior men – you will love this one: The golf course for the 2012 U.S. Senior Open is being played at a shorter distance than the course for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open.

Yes, the official yardage at Indianwood Golf and Country Club totals 6,891 yards for the senior men, while Black Wolf Run had an official yardage of 6,954 yards for the women.

Hey, guys, U.S. Women’s Open champion Na Yeon Choi, who probably weighs 125 pounds soaking wet, must hit the ball farther than you do.

Well, maybe not, but it’s virtually impossible to overstate the influence of distance in professional golf today. Even the women are clobbering the ball, and it seems just a matter of time before 7,000 yards becomes something of a benchmark for the women of the LPGA while 8,000 yards is more realistic each year for the men of the PGA Tour.

Okay, men, let’s elevate that bench press from 135 pounds to 300 pounds. Push, push, you can do it.

So how can Indianwood, at less than 6,900 yards, stand as a legitimate test for the world’s best 50-and-over golfers?

The answer: It’s called rough, and Tom Watson had made some very strong statements Wednesday about the narrow fairways and the I’ll-kill-you rough at Indianwood.

The first thing out of Watson’s mouth: “Getting right to the point about this golf course, if you don't drive the ball well, you have no chance. Absolutely no chance. None. Zero. The rough is so deep, so penal, and the fairways are pretty narrow. If you don't drive the ball like 70 percent of the fairways – which is really driving the ball well – if you don't drive it in 70 percent of the fairways, you're not going to win.”

Defending Senior Open champion Olin Browne went into more detail, complimenting the overall setup of the courses used for the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Women’s Open.

“Mike Davis and Jeff Hall and the guys, everybody is bringing a different mentality to setups in these kinds of championships that I think is really well received by the players. We all really embrace the challenge of playing a U.S. Open. You don't feel like you're going to the gallows any more.

“In the old days, you knew you were going to come and play rough that was eight inches deep and unplayable, so you had to pitch it out laterally. Now there's some hope, at least, if you hit an errant shot that you might be able to advance the ball far enough where you're still in the hole. I think that, as I said, is really, really well received.”

Hall is in charge of course setup for the Senior Open, while Davis is the modern mastermind of each year’s U.S. Open setup.

Many people agree that the supreme test for Davis and the USGA will come in next year’s U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia. The course is short by more championship standards, just under 7,000 yards, and will largely be an accuracy test.

Accuracy clearly is returning to center stage in the USGA’s biggest championships.

There is no doubt that accuracy off the tee and staying out of the rough will be the objectives in the U.S. Senior Open that starts Thursday.

Added Watson: “The only advice I can give anybody playing this course is the very first piece of advice I started off with. You've got to drive the ball on the fairway. If you don't, you're going to the Detroit Airport on Friday night.”

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