Even though the memories of day two have long been forgotten, I am going to allow a guest writer (my brother John) to post his observations of the round I played on Friday. This round had such promise, and like last year I migrated to the cut line, which was a disappointment, while thrilling to make another cut in a senior major.
My part of this posting will just tell you all again how hard it would be to make a living playing golf against the best 50+ yr old players in the world. The drop off from the PGA tour to the Champions tour is not significant in many of these players ability to play this game at a very high level.
I will discuss round three and how I feel being here, playing in this event after I post this: CAUTION read this at your own risk, my brother has a wry and interesting sense of humor. I’m posting this without proof reading anything he wrote to keep it his own view as a non-golfer. More coming….
TALE OF TWO RANDYS
By John Randolph Haag
July 22, 2011
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of near eagles and birdies, it was the age of bogies and double bogies, it was the epoch of joining the leader board, it was the epoch of going home to America with one’s tail between thy legs, it was the season of Light and sunny skies, it was the season of Darkness and black clouds above, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short (ha), after 18 +18 holes of torture in the green English dungeon at Walton Heath, Randy has survived the cut at the British Senior Open, and will be playing on Saturday and Sunday for the Championship. Meanwhile, 70 of the world’s best touring senior golf professionals are heading home with their honorable tails between their tired legs. Of course, Randy is “pleased” to be in the running to repeat as the #1 amateur in this major tournament. But some of us, the Haag Faithful, are still hoping for a lot more.
With apologies for my overt plagiarism of Charles Dickens, I am Randy’s brother, guest commentator, loyal fan and harsh critic … providing a brutally honest and semi-accurate assessment of Randy’s performance on the second day of the 2011 British Senior Open. Although Randy disavows all responsibility for my comments, he is compelled to publish them in his blog so as to give him time to rest up for the upcoming challenges (starting with driving to the golf course over roundabouts and narrow roads without excessive damage to the rental car).
Following RJH’s 72 Even Par on Day One, which easily could have become a 69 … or a 75, Randy’s Groupies were looking for a 69 today. It started out looking like we might get better than that. However, fate would have it that Randy’s opponent Kevin Spurgeon (the dark blue shirted member of Randy’s threesome which also included light blue shirted Gary Trivisonno) would be the one to set the course on fire, avenging his 77 on Thursday with a tournament low round 66 today.
This is a hole by hole account of green shirted Randy’s day, with intrepid sage counsel of his trusted caddie Reiner Binsfeld. Read on if you dare to hear all the good, the bad and the ugly.
Hole 1 (Par 4: 435 Yards)
The weather began sunny, but with large mostly white clouds, a slight breeze and the only rain of the day (a few seconds of light drizzle). Randy essentially repeated his Day 1 performance. A good downwind drive followed by nice iron shot 5 feet from the flag. Randy placed his first putt in the left pocket. BIRDIE #1 (-1 for the tournament).
Hole 2 (Par 5: 519 Yards)
Randy again essentially repeated his Day 1 performance, but this time with even better shots. An excellent downwind drive was followed by a fine second shot just missing the pin by 6 inches, leaving Randy with an 18 foot eagle try. The best of times. Randy’s first putt leaves him 3 feet away from the hole, and he sinks it. BIRDIE #2 (-2 for the tournament). The mysterious creatures in the heather plants/weeds rattle with contentment as Randy re-joins the Leader Board at -2. However, Randy is already forced to rest his back by sitting on his golf bag.
Hole 3 (Par 4: 407 Yards)
The wind and momentum both shift a little on the third hole. Randy’s drive finds the 6 foot deep right bunker on the narrow fairway, forcing him to make a short pitch to return to the smooth fairway grass. The third stroke headed toward the flag, but died on impact short and right of the hole, leaving Randy with a challenging 20 foot putt to try to save par. The undulating green was mostly level for the shot, except that the ball’s path needed to navigate the edge of a bowl depression. Trivisonno missed on a similar shot to the left, which was educational for Randolph (he was named after me), but the young senior golfer was short by a foot. BOGIE #1 (-1 for the tournament).
Hole 4 (Par 4: 427 Yards)
Randy smoked a long drive within 10 yards of the “unreachable” cart path – probably the longest drive of the day at this hole. The second shot is just as good, leaving Randy 4 feet from the pin. He sinks it and re-joins the bottom of the Leader Board. BIRDIE #3 (-2 for the tournament).
Hole 5 (Par 3: 183 Yards)
Randy found the trap yesterday and bogied this hole, so his Groupies were hoping for a better result today. They got it. Randy’s tee shot went long right, leaving a 20+ yard pitch back to the flag. Randy perfectly chipped and rolled to within 6 inches of the hole, saving par with a tap in. So close and yet so far. That theme will be repeated. PAR #1 (-2 for the tournament).
See photo of Leader Board after 5th Hole when available.
Hole 6 (Par 5: 558 Yards)
Randy also had trouble on this hole yesterday, so this time he eased off on his drive and avoided the bunker by a body length – in good shape for a possible birdie. Then came the worst of times — DISASTER. As I positioned myself 200 yards from Randy, I had this strange feeling that he was going to hit me with the ball – instead of laying up for an easy pitch to the green. We were competitive as kids (and thereafter), but surely Randy would not wing me (again)? Even so, as a good brother, I was prepared to “head” the ball back onto the fairway like an English football (soccer) striker — if it came my way. Damned we both were as I could not see the ball as it whizzed by my head, off the fairway and under several pine trees to the right front of the green. From there, a large right bunker guarded the low path to the flag, and the trees blocked the high path, so Randy was forced to pitch to the green’s approach. Oops – the ball almost goes into the left bunker, leaving bro with a 60+ foot uphill putt. He then strikes the ball too hard, and it rolls 15+ feet uphill past the hole before rolling back a couple feet. Randy end up three-putting, barely missing the hole on the second (ending up 2 feet away). BOGIE #2 (-1 for the tournament). Reliable sources whose identities shall be protected by legal privilege (unless hacked by a British reporter – per current news headlines) say that Randy was too aggressive with the second shot, costing him a birdie opportunity and par. A par? What is that??? They will come later.
Although this is as good as it got on Friday, please read on. The story of many good, bad and ugly shots remain to be told – and you will want to hear how Gunslinger “Eastwood” Haag ends up with a shot at the gold.
Hole 7 (Par 4: 400 Yards)
Randy rebounds with what the course official said was the longest drive of the day, luckily avoiding the heather brush which borders most of the narrow fairways, and leaving Randy less than 100 yards to the pin in a modest breeze. The second shot leaves Randy with a 20 foot slightly downhill putt, which he sadly missed again short by 18 inches. PAR #2 (-1 for the tournament).
Hole 8 (Par 4: 442Yards)
The three golfers’ drives are close together, with Randy’s in the best position. However, his second shot flew to the left side of the green, 30 feet from the flag with the base of a hill disrupting a straight shot putt. To the surprise of some faux golf scholars, Randy elected to pitch the ball onto the hillside, and let it roll. The ball hit the hill, stuck for an instant (mini-disaster avoided), and then rolled just missing the hole by a foot and leaving a 3 footer to save par. The pitch was a nice shot, and was typical of the reliable pitching Randy did – the best part of his game today. PAR #3 (-1 for the tournament).
Hole 9 (Par 3: 189Yards)
The leaders are at -7. -6, -5, -5, -4, -4, -3 etc. so Randy is still in striking range at -1. At this hole, all three drives are short of the hole, and Randy has a birdie opportunity with a 15 foot uphill straight shot, with a slope near the bucket. His putt is comes up 6 inches short despite near perfect adjustment for the slope. PAR #4 (-1 for the tournament).
Hole 10 (Par 4: 396 Yards)
Prepare yourself, because this is going to hurt. All three golfers hit similar good drives near the cart path. Randy’s second shot is poor, 30 to 40 feet from the pin. His first putt ends up 4 feet from the hole, making a par save likely. However, just as Randy is ready to make the high percentage second putt, the crowd at another hole cheers loudly. Instead of stopping to reboot, Randy continues to perpetrate his “rear entry” putting pendulum, and misses right. BOGIE #3 (Even for the tournament).
Hole 11 (Par 5: 529 Yards)
Spurgeon is playing great and is now even with Randy and par for the tournament. Randy’s drive barely misses the right bunker, but is in good position. However, the second shot finds the left bunker 20 yards from the pin. Randy hits another great pitch shot out of the 3 foot deep trap to within 4 feet from the pin, and putts in. BIRDIE #4 (-1 for the tournament).
Hole 12 (Par 4: 451 Yards)
Randy’s drive is centered in the fairway between the balls of the other two golfers (one in the right heather and the other in the left light rough). Randy’s second shot flies 20 feet past the pin. The first putt is on line but a foot short. Spurgeon birdies, taking the threesome lead at -2 and earning a gracious hug from Randy. PAR #5 (-1 for the tournament).
Hole 13 (Par 4: 465 Yards)
Randy’s drive curves to the right but is ok … in front of the trap and just out of the rough. His second shot lands past the ropes to the left of the green 20 yards from the pin. Randy hits a fantastic pitch 18 inches from the hole, and putts in saving par. PAR #6 (-1 for the tournament).
Hole 14 (Par 4: 470 Yards)
Conditions remain light to modest breezy – good golf weather considering the rain the past few weeks. But the clouds are getting blacker, and Hole 13 will put a chill down your spine and a dagger in Randy’s chances for winning the tournament (supposedly set at 100 to 1 by London bookmakers). Disaster A: Randy’s drive goes short right into the heather with a shallow lie. Disaster B: Randy’s recovery shot goes left into the heather on the other side, buried deep. He is forced to make a short pitch out onto the fairway for the third stroke, and then makes a decent forth shot to the green. The 25 foot bogie putt misses by 6 inches. Another close miss. DOUBLE BOGIE #1 (+1 for the tournament).
Hole 15 (Par 4: 408 Yards)
Randy’s drive goes long but into the left heather. More problems with the 3 wood? The saving second shot is great, missing the trap and 40 feet from the hole. The birdie putt try is 5 feet short. PAR #7 (+1 for the tournament).
Hole 16 (Par 4: 475 Yards)
Randy’s drive goes right into the heather, and the critters therein are now getting to know Mr. Haag on a first name basis. The second shot is short of the green. The following pitch is good, 15 feet from the stick. However, the par saving putt is missed. BOGIE #4 (+2 for the tournament).
Hole 17 (Par 3: 206 Yards)
Randy’s tee shot lands to the left of the green in slight rough even with the hole 15 yards away. The pitch is good, 5 feet from the hole. Danger Will Robinson: Randy seems to hesitate a little on the short putt, and it misses. BOGIE #5 (+3 for the tournament). Randy is now in some danger of missing the cut, and needs a par on 18 to be safe – and better yet a dignity saving bird. As it turned out, he would have still made the cut with a bogie on 18, but who wants to start the final two rounds “in the money” but tied for last place?
Hole 18 (Par 4: 475 Yards)
18 is designed for birdies, with a wide fairway. Randy’s drive finds the light rough in front of the left bunker/hill, which is ok. Randy lofts a great pitch onto the green 6 feet from the hole. However, Randy’s putt misses left by a couple inches as his entourage of family, friends and several British fans groan, and he settles for disappointing par. PAR #8 (+3 for the tournament).
Thus, despite a Back 9 love affair with a plant named Heather, only several missed short putts prevent Randy from at least duplicating his Round 1 score of even par.
In the Media Area, Randy said his mistakes are what differentiate him from the pros. This reporter disagrees. Randy is as good as many touring pros making a good living playing the game on the road, and he is just a few lapses and twitches away from the elite senior players. Count me as a member of Randy’s Army who say: “you can beat ‘em” … if will think you can … and if you do what it takes to mitigate those lapses and twitches.
RANDY’S SECOND DAY STATS
Birdies: 4 (the good)
Bogies: 5 (the bad)
Double Bogies: 1 (the ugly)
THE GOOD NEWS
Although Randy had some trouble, mistakes and “close but” shots that moved him off the Leader Board, most of the talented field had even more problems on the challenging Walton Heath course, so Randy makes the cut again this year (cut @ +4), and will play for the title beginning on Saturday at 10:30 AM London Time. The TV cameras are ready for the action.
Only three amateurs made the tournament, and Randy is second (one stroke behind). Over the next two days, they will dual it out for the top amateur silver medal prize, and an exemption into the 2012 tournament. However, that is not enough for Haag’s Hecklers (maybe we need a contest for a better nickname for Randy’s blog followers), who hope for – nay demand – two great rounds to put Randy back on the Leader Board. The current leaders are at -7, so Randy is 10 shots off the pace and has some birdies to make and bogies to evade.
Stay Tuned? JRH