The Loop

Whistling An Uneasy Tune

HAVEN, Wis. -- Hard to believe the seniors could be pining for the difficult Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, but after a couple of practice rounds for this week's U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits, it seems they think this Pete Dye creation is even tougher than his design on the South Carolina shore that beat them up at the Senior PGA Championship in May. Several players, including Curtis Strange, offered their perspective in a Gary D'Amato story in Wednesday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"At Kiawah, if you do miss a shot you are penalized but it's fair," Strange said. "Here, if you miss a shot, you're penalized and you might make a 12. There's a difference between making a double bogey and a 12."

Denis Watson, who won at the Ocean course, says the difference is Whistling Straits' more narrow fairways. "Every single hole demands a great shot off the tee," he said. "You cannot scrape it around here."

Allen Doyle is trying to make history by winning his third consecutive U.S. Senior Open crown, but he knows it isn't going to be easy. "I would say if the wind blew it would play two or three shots a day higher probably than at Kiawah, and the scores weren't very good at Kiawah," Doyle said this morning. "You miss [shots] in certain spots around here -- to the left of No. 4, to the left of No. 17 -- they're going to have to send out search parties for guys, maybe."

The highest winning 72-hole score in U.S. Senior Open history is nine-over-par 289 at Oakland Hills in 1981. Whether this week approaches anything like that will depend on the strength of the wind. "I think Thursday and Sunday will be the breeziest days of the week," USGA meterologist Jake Swick told me this morning. "I could see gusts up to 25 miles per hour on those days."  Winds of 10 to 20 mph are expected throughout the tournament, perhaps slightly less on Friday.

-- Bill Fields