I’m sure you’re all on the edge of seats wondering what it was like to play at Sahalee on Monday. Well, it was early and it was damp. And I felt really prepared with loaner clubs and a stiff back. It was also encouraging to have the shanks on the range. This is going to be just delightful, I thought. Oddly enough, Sahalee played easier than I expected.
US Senior Open
On my way to Sahalee this morning, I was listening to KJR Sports Radio in Seattle. I liked and agreed with most of what the guys had to say, except one thing — the radio dude said Bernhard Langer wasn’t responsive to fans and didn’t show much personality. That’s what he appears to be like, but he’s actually quite eccentric and interactive on the course. It’s surprising since he talks in this robotic German accent (it’s great) and plays in a deliberate manner.
The first time I ever watched him play in person was on Thursday and he won me over by, like, the fourth hole. He scrambled from the trees and sank a really long putt for birdie from the fringe. The crowd gave him a Freddie-like cheer. He held a fist pump for a few seconds and turned around to the gallery with his “I’m a German machine” expression (which includes a smile). The best was when he did a lunge.
So in honor of Langer winning the US Senior Open (and the Senior British), here’s a compilation of his various awesome and eccentric reactions in pictures. Enjoy! (Click on images to enlarge.)
There was a gasp of horror unlike any other that roared through the trees of Sahalee by the 16th hole on Sunday afternoon. Well, sorta. I was kneeling on the hillside by the green when Tom Kite, who was two-under and in third place going into the 70th hole, hit a straight shank into the gallery and the trees on the right from an awful lie on the downhill slope. Everyone — including Kite — was stunned. Known for the dramatic, he looked too horrified to react and put his hand over his mouth like a little kid thinking “Oh my God, what just happened?”
When I think of Bernhard Langer, the first word that comes to mind is machine. He never made a mistake, but it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect going into Sunday’s final round of the US Senior Open. Perhaps it wasn’t the outcome 99.9% of the 31,444 fans in attendance at Sahalee were hoping for, but it was incredibly impressive to watch.
Few players wouldn’t have held up mentally or physically in the Ryder Cup-like atmosphere. Coming off last week’s major victory at the Senior British–with a flight across the continental United States and the Atlantic and eight timezones, Langer shot a brilliant bogey-free three-under 67.
Fred Couples made a poor decision on the par 5 No.2 — the easiest hole of the week — where he carded a triple-bogey 8 to shoot himself out of the tournament quickly. When he spoke to reporters next to the clubhouse, he was still startled that he decided to lay up and if you could give him a do over, he would go for the green in two no matter where his drive ended up.
Standing on the slightly elevated platform next to the clubhouse at Sahalee on Saturday evening, Fred Couples started to answer our questions. A few minutes into it, he looked over the group of about ten reporters and called on a surprise visitor who had popped in.
“Is it true Jay Haas beat you like 3&2 on Wednesday — or was it Tuesday?”
If Fred Couples is still atop the leaderboard at the end of play on Sunday, there will be a riot of 50,000 fans watching and the city of Seattle will declare a new holiday — Freddie Couples Day.
I’m slightly exaggerating. But it’s not far from the truth.
As Freddie’s downhill 20-footer for birdie disappeared into the ninth hole, a thunderous roar blared across Sahalee. He finished the front nine with a 31 and I felt like I was going to be trounced as the mob started to migrate from the ninth green to the tenth tee. It was impossible to navigate, but I was also consumed by the electrifying atmosphere flowing through every one of the 29,000+ fans in attendance for the third round of the US Senior Open.
Fred Couples Implies Those Golf Sneakers He Turned Into Best-Sellers Suck in Not Perfectly Dry Conditions
I noticed yesterday that Fred Couples wasn’t wearing Ecco’s sneaker-style shoes — you know, the ones he wore without socks that became a storyline at this year’s Masters, turning them into the most talked-about golf shoe in the history of the industry. They’re the same ones you probably paid $140 for and you just received in the mail because they’ve been on back-order for the past three months.
So, at his press conference, after he posted a fantastic, bogey-free five-under 65 to jump into a tie for the lead with Bernhard Langer at the US Senior Open, I asked him why he ditched the sneaker shoe. (I really wish I had the video of his delivery, but try to improvise because it was pretty funny/great.)
First-round leader Bruce Vaughan pulled a Rory McIlroy and posted an 82 in the near dark on Friday evening at Sahalee to drop to a tie for 40. Meanwhile, despite waiting through the morning fog, which suspended play for two hours, Bernhard Langer pushed forward vigorously with a 68 to take a two-stroke lead at the US Senior Open.
Fresh off a victory at last week’s Senior British Open, if he can hold on to the lead, he will be the first player on the 50+ tour to win consecutive majors since Tom Watson in 2003.
“Langer is doing lunges on the greens and flexing his muscles,” I typed half-jokingly to a friend, who replied, “He’s in ridiculous shape. He’s a slightly more wrinkled version of his 30 year old self.”
With the galleries five to ten deep from tee to green, the grandstands overflowing, the hero-like adulation and three or four uniformed officers, I felt like I was following Tiger Woods at Sahalee on Friday afternoon.
Wrong tour. I walked with Fred Couples, Tom Watson and Eduardo Romero for their first nine, but I actually only saw about four and a half. I kept shaking my head in disbelief. This is a Friday and a senior citizens tour event, no less!
26,173 people attended the second round of the US Senior Open, according to USGA officials. Considering 25,423 of them were tracking Freddie, it felt like there were even more. I’d never seen anything like it.
Neither had Tom Watson or his caddie Todd Newcomb — they don’t think.