Seniors Suffering from Major Fatigue and Jetlag
By Stephanie Wei under US Senior Open

For a guy who shot a solid one-under 69, just three strokes off the lead at the US Senior Open, Mark Calcavecchia seemed rather grouchy. “You don’t seem happy, it was a good round of golf,” one reporter noted.

“I’m happy, really happy, tired, back hurts, blister on my toe, ready to get the hell out of here, waking up every day at 3:00 [in the morning],” Calc replied with the same stony look.

This marks the third consecutive week Calc has played in a major — albeit the past two were for the 50+ guys. After finishing up the Senior Open at Carnoustie, many of the players flew across eight time zones to compete in another.

“I ran out of gas with six holes to go,” Calc added. After my practice holes yesterday I was thinking about my nap, I was tired, which is unusual with me, usually I bounce back and flying all over the world, but I’ve been tired.”

Like Calc, Tom Watson played in the British Open and the Senior British Open, but at 60, Watson is ten years Calc’s elder. Watson, who played in the morning, was noticeably (and understandably) cranky after his round. He started hot with birdies on 12, 17, 2 and 3 (first hole was 10) and got to three-under through 12. But the time change and fatigue caught up with him in the closing stretch, where he bogeyed three of the final four holes.

“The morning started off good, but I wore out, the time change got to me and I’m half asleep,” Watson said. “The body’s hurtin’ and I’m worn out and I can’t make any putts and the front nine was great and the back nine I hit some shots I shouldn’t have hit, iron shots I shouldn’t have hit and I didn’t make any putts…I’m just tired, tired and hurtin’. When you wake up at 1:00 in the morning and can’t get back to sleep, it’s kind of tough to play.”

Fred Couples, who played in the RBC Canadian Open instead of the British Senior (he’s sponsored by RBC), was one of the few to play better in his second nine. “To be up for six hours for a 7:45[AM] round, that’s tough,” Freddie said of Watson’s predicament. “I don’t know what the hell he’s going to do if he gets up at 2 or 3, but he’s tough. Everyone out there is — I didn’t do it. I’m glad I didn’t go.”

Apparently those in charge of the senior schedule forgot to factor in the eight-hour time change, 4,000+ miles and mental exhaustion of competition, let alone back-to-back majors.

Jay Haas, who shot an even par 70, put things in perspective.

“I laughed today when I was reading ‘USA Today’ and Peter [Jacobsen] said it’s a hardship and we don’t want [back-to-back majors] like that. Come on, this is not a hardship, our office is one of the prettiest places in the world and it’s just golf, you know?”

This is true. It’s not like they’re building bridges or digging ditches, but people underestimate the toll that competition takes out on players. I’d say it’s more mentally exhausting than physically. And let’s remember these guys are kinda old. I mean, Watson has had hip replacement surgery! I’ve heard as you get older, it’s tougher for your body to recover from something that seems as trivial as playing golf or jetlag. Hell, I’d barely recovered from St. Andrews and my internal clock has no idea what time zone it’s in right now, and these guys are double my age. (I also get paid a lot less.) If it were the regular pros, I’d say, STFU and suck it up.

“I probably don’t even have to set my alarm, you can call me at 3:30 if you want, I’ll be up,” Calc said.

He shuffled away too quickly before I could ask for his number.