CREVE COEUR – Golf fans heading to the final round of the U.S. Senior Open at Bellerive Country Club today certainly have nothing to complain about.
Not only will they be treated to two championship rounds of golf, but they will also see some of the biggest names on the Champions Tour take part in a showdown for the most coveted title on the senior circuit.
Nine of the top 19 players through 36 holes have won at least one major championship on either the PGA Tour or the Champions Tour.
Tom Kite, Fuzzy Zoeller and Hale Irwin, who are all within three strokes of the lead, have proven they have what it takes to withstand the final-round drama of a U.S. championship. Zoeller captured the U.S. Open title in 1984, Kite won the U.S. Open in 1992 and Irwin will be looking for his sixth U.S. championship, having won the U.S. Open in 1974, 1979 and 1990 and the U.S. Senior Open in 1998 and 2000.
Despite having seven PGA Tour victories, Peter Jacobsen, the second-round co-leader at 7-under-par, will be in search of his first win in a major tournament on any tour. Jay Haas, who has nine career victories and is two strokes back, will also be in search of the first major victory in his career.
“You look at the leaderboard and there’s names that you recognize up there, not a lot of surprises,” Haas said. “I think that’s the nature of the golf course because you have to hit a lot of good, solid shots.”
BAD START, GOOD FINISH: One name on the leaderboard that is not as recognizable is Jose Maria Canizares.
Canizares, a Spaniard who played mainly on the PGA European Tour before joining the Champions Tour in 1997, bogeyed two of his first three holes Saturday but quickly regrouped and didn’t make another bogey the rest of the round.
Canizares made his biggest move of the day when he birdied the last three holes to climb to six-under and one shot behind the leaders.
“The last three holes were very easy,” Canizares said. “(Today) I’ve got to have new legs, a new head and new everything for the second 18 holes, because it all depends on the weather, because if it’s a little hot, it’s a very tough golf course for walking.”
If Canizares can come from behind and win today he will be the fifth foreign-born U.S. Senior Open champion and the first since Australian Graham Marsh won in 1997.
THE FIELD GETS A TRIM: Of the 156 players who teed off Thursday, 96 will return today for the final 36-holes after the second-round cut.
All players with a two-day total of 147 (5-over) or higher were cut. Among those players was Gary Player, the winner of the 1965 U.S. Open at Bellerive. Player, who at 68 shot a respectable 6-over 148, did not make a birdie during his final round.
Ben Crenshaw (6 over), Raymond Floyd (7 over), Tom Wargo (9 over) and Arnold Palmer (23 over) were other notable players who did not make the cut.