CREVE COEUR – The second round of the U.S. Senior Open on Saturday at Bellerive Country Club had the unmistakable feel of a final tuneup before an ultimate test of skill and desire.
Three inches of rain Friday postponed the second round, forcing the final three rounds to be squeezed into two days, and players positioned themselves on the leaderboard with hopes of outlasting the field during today’s 36-hole final round.
Peter Jacobsen shot a 1-under 70 to hold onto a share of his first-round lead at 7-under with Craig Stadler, who shot a 69. Jose Maria Canizares is one stroke back and Tom Kite, Jay Haas, Fuzzy Zoeller, D.A. Weibring and Bob Gilder are at 5-under.
With today’s weather forecast calling for extreme humidity and temperatures around 90 degrees, many players, including Kite, are expecting today’s final round to be taxing.
“It’s going to be a long, difficult day for everybody,” Kite said. “The humidity is going to be way up there and it’s just going to be a marathon day. So basically, you just need to do everything you can to take it nice and easy.”
Although the weather might not be ideal for 8-10 hours on a golf course, most players agreed the tournament is up for grabs. Seventeen players are within five strokes of the lead.
“With 36 holes left, so much can happen even though it is just one day,” Haas said. “I think the key to 36 is being patient, being on an even keel and trying not to think too far ahead.”
The greens at Bellerive remained relatively soft Saturday, giving players a decent chance to fire at the pins and make birdies. The second-round scoring average was 74.2, nearly a stroke better than Thursday’s first-round average.
Weibring, who shot a second-round 66, had a run of three birdies. He hit an approach to within a foot on the par-4 fifth hole, hit a shot to within a foot and a half on the par-3 sixth hole and hit a shot to within 10 feet on the par-4 seventh hole.
With the greens expected to stay soft today, a similar run is not out of the question. If a player can get hot early in the day he could carry that to the finish.
“The good thing about 36 holes is a lot of times when you play 18 holes and you shoot a good round you wish you could keep going,” Kite said. “Now you get that opportunity to keep going and if you really have it going in the morning you have a chance to really build on that and carry it towards both rounds.”
The 36-hole final round will be the first in the 25-year history of the Champions Tour, but most players are familiar with playing 36 holes in U.S. Open qualifying rounds or other events.
Despite the overall doomsday attitude toward the final, several players, including Zoeller, who shot a 66 Saturday to climb into contention, are not too concerned about the extended day on the course.
“I don’t foresee 36 holes being that big a problem, and I think the only people that are going to complain are the people who work in the air conditioning,” Zoeller said. “As far as golfers go, we’re used to it because we play golf every day of our lives and this is just a time of the year where it’s hot.”