SAMMAMISH, Wash. - If the play of Saturday's early starters is any indication, Sahalee CC won't be giving up much more than it did in a difficult first two rounds of the U.S. Senior Open.
Of the 27 players who have completed nine holes of the third round, only three are under par. Only eight sub-par scores were tallied on both Thursday and Friday. The third-round hole locations aren't quite as tucked as for the first two rounds - only three holes are cut four yards of less from the edge; on Thursday, eight were so positioned.
The scoring at Sahalee was nearly four strokes higher in relation to par for the first two rounds than at Crooked Stick last year (76.612 on par-70 Sahalee compared to 74.884 on par-72 Crooked Stick). Still, the weekend is set up with a number of marquee players in the mix, as was the case last year, when Fred Funk outdueled Greg Norman (absent this year) and others in a record low-scoring shootout.
It is has certainly felt like a major this week, with 26,173 spectators packing Sahalee for the second round - many watching the threesome of hometown hero Fred Couples, Tom Watson and Eduardo Romero. At even-par 140, three behind leader Bernhard Langer, Couples and Watson are paired again Saturday, in the third-to-last group, ensuring another lively atmosphere.
While Couples is shooting for his first senior major and Watson for an elusive U.S. Senior Open crown, Langer will be trying to be the first to win consecutive seniors majors since Watson won the Senior British Open and Jeld-Wen Tradition in 2003. However, in only six of the previous 30 U.S. Senior Opens has the halfway leader gone on to win. Peter Jacobsen, a co-leader in 2004, is the last to have walked away with the Francis Ouimet Trophy.
-- Bill Fields