The U.S. Senior Open
Michigan hasn’t spent a lot of time lately in the championship golf limelight, which is a shame, considering some of the classic courses available, and the rich history with the PGA. This week, though, Lake Orion is having its hour in the sun with the U.S.Senior Open Championship at Indianwood. Perennially one of the top one hundred “classic” courses in the United States, it’s only fitting that the classic players should appear there together.
There are varying schools of thought about the Championship Tour, and they tend to reflect varying viewpoints on aging on the North American continent. For some, if you’re not going to watch your favorite golfers in their prime, why watch them at all? For others, it’s the perfect way to hang on to the symbols of nostalgia from your youth. Of course, that makes it sound like these golfers appeared with the advent of Niagara Falls, but that’s not so. For some, the Champions Tour suffers the same rap as the LPGA sometimes does by people who have utterly missed the point of the game – “Why watch if they can’t hit it 350 yards?”
A lot of people, however, know the truth. These great golfers of past years of the PGA Tour can still play a whale of a golf game. They can still produce thethrill, and demonstrate what the fuss was all about when they were winning majors and being counted among the greatest of all time. The field of “classics” who appear on this “classic” course owns a collective pedigree that is more than worth a true golf lover’s attention and time. Having followed all three tours live, the Champions have left me with a treasure trove of memories with these personalities and these demonstrations of skill.
In a sense, we are watching these golfers in their prime, not in their physical prime when they could tear the cover off the ball day, go for the creek in two and find a myriad of solutions beneath the brain. The physical thrills are not gone at this level, but the thinking man more often prevails. Yes, it satisfies our sense of nostalgia, and for that, I simply say “thank you – no problem. Play as long as you like – I’m happy to watch.”
Consider, for example, who’s here. Tom Watson and Fred Couples are playing in the same group for the first round. Can you guess how much winning golf is spread between these two histories? I followed Watson around at the Jeld Wen in Bend, Oregon, and racked my limited knowledge of physics trying to figure out how he hits a ball as far as he does. They’re not out there playing croquet, be assured of that.
Tom Kite played the first round today. He shot a 65. And what did he shoot on the front nine? He shot a 28. Yes, you heard that right, 28, a record for the tournament, and most others. This is not your grandfather’s golf. As Kite asked, “Is 60 the new 40?” Well, not necessarily. I didn’t play anywhere near that well at forty.
Fifty or sixty years ago, a greater percentage of people acted their age and did what they were told. Now octogenarians are jumping off of bridges, out of airplanes, sailing around the world and doing all manner of other silliness. They’re in shape, and when a generation is in shape, you’re going to see someone round the front nine in 28, sooner or later.
We’ll wait to see how Watson recovers from a recent hand injury working on his farm. He seems to think he’ll be all right. With all Kite’s highlights, he’s still in a race with Corey Pavin and others. The fire of competition is alive and well on this tour, and the quality won’t leave anyone disappointed.