8/10 • 3 - 6 PM
Two rounds of the 43rd U.S. Senior Open Championship are in the books, and if there is anything we’ve learned over these 36 holes, it’s that SentryWorld is standing up to the best 50-and-older players. Some have called it one of the most challenging courses they’ve ever played, comparable to some of the most stringent U.S. Open venues such as Oakmont Country Club, Winged Foot Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and Merion Golf Club.
Just look at the scores. Only five golfers are in red figures, and 36-hole leader Bernhard Langer stands at 3 under par. The cut came at 9 over, and the overall scoring average is 76.92 – nearly six strokes over the par of 71.
Thick rough combined with tight, tree-lined fairways and undulating greens rolling in the 13s on the Stimpmeter make for challenging conditions. Fortunately, the weather has cooperated. Most of the smokey air from the Canadian wildfires has moved on, and Rounds 1 and 2 were bathed in sunshine. The forecast for the weekend is good with temperatures in the mid-80s.
Here are 3 Things to Know for Rounds 3 and 4:
In most cases, statistics often tell a story, and if you look at who is at the top in fairways hit and greens in regulation – two vital categories in U.S. Opens – one can see why Bernhard Langer tops the leader board. The 65-year-old German who is trying to win a second U.S. Senior Open title and a record-setting 12th senior major, has hit the most fairways (25-of-28) and is tied for second in GIR (25-of-36). Meanwhile, he’s 58th in driving distance, illustrating that the bomb-and-gauge philosophy utilized at a lot of tournaments won’t work on this setup.
Only Retief Goosen (T-3) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (T-8) are in the top 10 in driving distance among the leaders.
Meanwhile, Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly, Dicky Pride and Rod Pampling are among the top 10 in fairways hit. Pampling is one stroke behind Langer, while Pride and Kelly are two back and Stricker trails by three. Stricker, Pampling and Ernie Els are in the top 10 in GIR. Goosen, meanwhile, leads the field in putting, averaging 1.55 per green, but this shouldn’t come as a shock. When he claimed the second of his two U.S. Open titles in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills, the South African one-putted 11 greens in Sunday’s final round.
Big crowds have come out to follow the two most recognizable golfers from the Badger State this week: Stricker and Kelly. They have not disappointed, as both are near the top of the leader board.
On Saturday, the two Madison residents will be paired together in the third-to-last group, which should make for some wildly entertaining golf. This is Wisconsin’s version of having U.S. Open champions Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in the same twosome.
Stricker, the winner of the year’s first two senior majors, is looking to join the likes of Langer and Jack Nicklaus by capturing three majors in a season. If he could win at SentryWorld, he’d have a shot at the season Grand Slam with Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, and Royal Porthcawl in Wales hosting the final two majors of 2023.
Kelly, a two-time U.S. Senior Open runner-up and currently two strokes off the lead, is looking to capture his third senior major title. A victory by either would definitely set off a pre-July 4 celebration worthy of any fireworks display.
Call it a competition within a competition.
With only two of 24 amateurs making the 36-hole cut, the race will be on between Mark Strickland, 54, of San Diego, Calif., and Christian Raynor, 51, of Kennesaw, Ga., for low-amateur honors. Both players completed 36 holes at 8-over-par 150, and both are reinstated amateurs.
The low amateur, however, receives more than just a medal. He is exempt into next year’s U.S. Senior Open at Newport (R.I.) Country Club and receives spots in this year’s U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club and U.S. Mid-Amateur at Sleepy Hollow Country Club.
Interestingly enough, Strickland, a golf car salesman, managed the Yamaha Golf Car dealer channel at the company’s headquarters in Kennesaw, Ga., prior to relocating to Southern California. Before that, the Wake Forest grad played briefly as a professional before owning and operating a successful Play It Again Sports franchise in Cartersville, Ga.
Raynor, a quarterfinalist in the 1994 U.S, Amateur, played four seasons at Florida State before trying his hand at professional golf. Now a financial advisor, Raynor was reinstated in 2001.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.