News & ToursAugust 2, 2009

U.S. Senior Open: The Big Chase

CARMEL, Ind. -- There are a couple of interesting storylines heading into the final round of the U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick. Can third-round leader Fred Funk (13-under 203) hold on and win his second Champions Tour major? Can either of the two players sharing second place at 12-under, Greg Norman and Joey Sindelar, break through for their first senior victory? Is a historic triumph possible for 50-year-old amateur Tim Jackson, who had some rough patches Saturday but hung in there, scrambled to a 73 and stayed in contention in fourth place at 10 under?

Crooked Stick has offered plenty of birdies this week -- Russ Cochran shot a third-round 64 to leap into a tie for sixth place at eight under -- but it snarled in spots. Sindelar found water on the par-3 third, and Jackson drove it into a hazard on the par-4 eighth. Funk scrambled for a key par on the testy par-3 17th, one of four demanding holes down the stretch.

"You can get in trouble, but you've just got to try to take it in small doses and get back on offense and make your birdies when you have a chance," said Sindelar, who shanked a chip shot on the 14th hole but managed to salvage a bogey en route to a 70.

Sindelar came away impressed with the composure of Jackson, the 36-hole leader who is bidding to become the first amateur to win the U.S. Senior Open. The two will be paired again Sunday, in the penultimate group this time, in front of Funk and Norman.

"I can't imagine what he's feeling," Sindelar said. "That [day] was somewhat nerve-racking for a veteran. There are big-time crowds and television cameras all over place. That's the real deal, and that's what we do, and not what he does. He handled himself incredibly well, and not only that, he played good golf. He's nowhere near done yet. So my congratulations to him, and my wishes that he doesn't turn pro and join the Champions Tour. He can just stay away."

Sindelar laughed when he said that, of course, but Jackson says he is serious about remaining an amateur. He contemplated a try at senior Q school last fall, but the Tennessean decided against it, that life wouldn't be enjoyable on the road away from his wife, Karen, and their two sons.

A victory would earn Jackson a one-year exemption on the Champions Tour if he decided to turn professional, but he seems to like the life he has in the Memphis suburbs. "I just weighed it all and I think the quality of life that we have is pretty good," Jackson said.

The quality of his golf resume certainly would improve if he could pull off a victory Sunday. "It's the fourth round of a major tournament, the biggest tournament I've ever contended in," said Jackson, a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. "You can't come out and play like I did through the first two days [66-67]. You are going to have a day where you struggle, and hopefully that was today."

For Norman, Sunday will be about closing the deal one week after he couldn't convert a 54-hole lead at the Senior British Open into a win. Asked after the third round what how a victory would compare to others that he has won, Norman said, "I'll answer that question tomorrow if it happens, OK, how about that?"

-- Bill Fields

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