Blog 39 - Showtime at Sahalee

To listen to Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman, Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson, Fred Funk and Fred Couples during their press conferences at Sahalee CC Wednesday, you'd think we were here for the actual US Open, not the senior version. 'This course is brutal,' said Couples. 'The greens are firmer than Pebble's,' said Watson. 'I think even-par wins the tournament,' said Fred Funk who actually shot 20-under at Crooked Stick GC in Indiana to win this event last year.
Rich Taylor, Sahalee's long-time superintendent has done a fantastic job preparing the North and South nines at 27-hole Sahalee for this championship, with a major assist from the weather which looks like holding up for the duration of the tournament. An indication of how dry the place is, is that the media parking lot is a fairway on the East nine, but despite having over 500 cars drive over it every day, not a single dent that I can see has been left in the turf.
This bodes very well for the tournament. As we all know, the USGA can sometimes overdo the firm and fast thing and wind up with a course that crosses the line between tough and unplayable, demanding and just plain goofy.
Hopefully that won't happen this week. The weather looks like it will cooperate meaning Taylor and the USGA can control how much water the course receives and therefore maintain the right level of challenge. They obviously need to avoid a situation like that which happened at Shinnecock Hills in the 2004 US Open, when the USGA 'lost' the course.
Funk whose accuracy is obviously well-suited to a layout whose fairways are choked so threateningly by Douglas Fir and Red Cedar (he'd probably be just as accurate at a course where the fairways were choked by oak and silver birch), must be licking his chops at the prospect of back-to-back US Senior Open victories. As he said Wednesday, the cream should definitely emerge at the top of the leaderboard. 'You just can't fake it round here,' he added. 'There will be some separation right out of the gate between players who are able to control their ball and those who aren't.'
If the USGA can maintain the present course conditions throughout the week, then Sunday's champion will be the player who has not only hit the best shots but he who has adopted the wisest strategy too. Isn't that how it should be?

tony & fredYou hopefully read yesterday's blog so know all about my attempt to have a picture taken with Fred Couples at Wentworth GC in England 21 years ago. You'll remember everything was going swimmingly until a certain Tom Purtzer slid into the frame a nanosecond before my friend pressed the shutter. Well, yesterday, following his press conference, I asked Fred for a re-shoot. I explained the situation and he said he remembered the incident like it was yesterday and that he hadn't really thought of much else since (joking I am).
So, behind the press tent in front of a load of air-conditioning units and food service trucks I finally got to take the picture I had planned in 1989 - just me and Fred. Yes, I know that as a professional golf journalist (not to say, a grown man) I'm not supposed to have favorites. But as a golf fan and resident of the Pacific Northwest for nearly eight years, of course I want Couples to win this week.
tony and tom purtzerFunny thing; just a few minutes after having the picture taken with Couples, I was walking past a quiet chipping area and who should be the lone golfer out practicing? Of course, Tom Purtzer. What else could I do but ask to have my picture taken with him as well? It bought the whole sorry WentworthGate saga to an ironic, and satisfying, conclusion.

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