Vijay Singh has yet to win on the PGA TOUR Champions but at the 37th U.S. Senior Open Championship, he is looking to change that.
Singh is one step closer to finding the winner’s circle leading by two strokes with a 4-under-par 66 after one round of play.
“I’m uncomfortable over here because golf courses are very new, and you always expect to play well,” Singh said. “Every time I tee it up here, if I don’t win, I’m really disappointed. So I put a lot more pressure on myself, and that’s not very good, you know. My caddie just told me, you should come here and feel like you’re on a break. Maybe you’re going to play well because you just don’t play your regular golf when you come over here. I force myself to play well over here instead of just playing. So my attitude this week is just go and play and see what happens. Probably that’s why I play well.”
On the PGA TOUR Champions this year, Singh’s best finish was a tie for eighth at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in just one of three starts.
Singh has spent much of his season on the PGA TOUR making 12 cuts in 20 total events played. His bestfinish there was a second place return at Quicken Loans National.
The key to success for Singh was keeping the ball in play. The Fijian-born Singh hit 13 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens at Scioto Country Club.
“I’m driving the ball well and I’m hitting my irons good,” said Singh. “Playing the regular tour, I’ve been playing pretty decent out there too. I came here with obviously expected to play well every time I come to the Champions Tour, and I just played well today.”
Among those pursuing Singh is Miguel Angel Jimenez who in his round led early on with a 2-under-par score. He recorded 15 consecutive pars to end his round.
“I played very solid,” Jimenez said. “I didn’t miss a fairway today, only in the hole No. 10 when I started. I was in the middle of the fairway and bounced one foot off the fairway. And then on the hole No. 7 — where I hit a 5 wood, I was one foot off the fairway also, but I hit it perfect from the tee. This golf course demands a lot of that, hitting very good from the tee. Also, I’m hitting good shots to the green. It’s not easy to put in close and it’s not easy to putt. I know that you have to be very good with a lot of movement.”
Jeff Gallagher, Michael Allen, Gene Sauers and Glen Day are also tied for second at 2-under-par. A stroke behind them is Ohio State graduate Joey Sindelar and John Daly recorded double bogey on the par-3 8th hole but finished at even par.
Heat and play factors
With the heat index hitting 100 degrees in the first round, caddies were told they did not have to wear their usual bibs during this time. They were not the only ones affected.
“Scoring which was already hard became tougher as the course played faster due to the heat,” Brian Mogg said. “It’s 90-whatever degrees, and the humidity’s up, and the greens are extremely firm. I hit a lot of shots that I thought would be really close, and I ended up going over the green. Club selection was almost a little Scottish in nature. You had to club it 10-15 yards short of what you expected because it was going to skip it.”
Jeff Gallagher, one of five players tied for second place had a similar experience.
“To me, the ball went a lot further today than it has been going,” said Gallagher. “It was very weird earlier in the week because 10 to 15 yards shorter than what was pretty much normal, and then all of a sudden, boom. Maybe the adrenaline, maybe — you swing differently when you’re playing in tournament time, but it happened pretty quickly.”
Afternoon conditions were harder with the wind swirling in conjunction to the heat.
“It’s really hard, the swirling winds, the rough, you had to get it straight,” Gary Hallberg said. “Jeez, I’m too old for this. You know, I want to start smoothing things out as I get older. I feel like I’m finished, like I’m a bricklayer, and I just did 12 hours laying brick, concrete.You know, I exaggerate, but, yeah, it was tiring, you know, very tiring. I drank a lot of water. I’m really hungry right now, didn’t eat enough. As you can see, I’m kind of skinny as it is. But it was quite a test, quite a test.”
All in all it led to 12 players finishing under par in day one of U.S. Senior Open play.
“As you saw by the scoreboard, the course won versus the field,” said Joey Sindelar.
Round of the day
Easily was Billy Mayfair’s 1-under par 69. The conditions were tougher in the afternoon and he did not bogey. His lone birdie of the day came on the par-3 6th hole, not a bad first ever PGA TOUR Champions round.
Shots of the day
Talk about starting your rounds off with a bonus, both Gary Hallberg and Phillip Golding holed out from the fairway to begin their rounds.
Golding was first holing out on the par-4 1st hole for eagle.
“I hit a 3-wood down the left side 150 yards to the pin,” he said. “I hit a 9-iron and maybe fractionally pushed it. I was in an awkward position on the right side, hit a good shot and as I was walking up the people behind the green clapped their hands. Bounce, bounce, it came in from the right hand side and it just trickled in.”
Golding will have to share the spotlight with Hallberg who eagled on the par-4 10th hole.
“I hit a 52 degree Hopkins gap wedge from 116 yards, and I aimed about five yards left, little left to right wind, and it hit and rolled,” said Hallberg. “It was on-line, and next thing you know, it disappeared. Incredible. I didn’t want to get too excited because it was the first hole, and I had a lot of golf left. So I tried to be calm about it, but that was fantastic to make an eagle on the 1st hole.”
37th U.S. Senior Open leaderboard
1. Vijay Singh -4
T2. Jeff Gallagher -2
T2. Miguel Angel Jimenez -2
T2. Michael Allen -2
T2. Gene Sauers -2
T2. Glen Day -2
T7. Ian Woosnam -1
T7. Scott Verplank -1
T7. Michael Bradley -1
T7. Takeshi Sakiyama -1
T7. Joey Sindelar -1
T7. Billy Mayfair -1
He said it
“First off, trying to wake up, that’s the hard thing. You know, you get perfect greens for nine holes. So it’s pretty good. So take advantage of that if you can, not that greens were any worse in the afternoon around on the back nine. But getting out early is kind of good. You don’t have to wait around as long, and you just get it going.” – Jeff Gallagher
“It worked out good for me because I had to go to the bathroom. I ran into the locker room and went to the bathroom, and it kind of took some time away. But it is what it is. It’s no big deal. You know, when you’re the first group, you’re going to play pretty quick. We had a decently fast group. I don’t like to take a whole lot of time. So I know I’m always — if I’m the first group, I’m probably going to wait no matter where we are.” – Gallagher on what he did while waiting for the last group to tee off on the 10th hole
“I got Delta’d like everybody else. That’s what we’re calling it. I figure I’d drive my bus back home to Arkansas because Wednesday I couldn’t get anything — or Tuesday I couldn’t get anything on Delta. So I took Southwest, which they’re always reliable. So it was easy to get here Wednesday. luckily, there wasn’t a Pro-Am in this, so even if it went to Wednesday, I could have just driven up. It’s amazing, it’s the first time I’ve flown in the U.S. in I don’t know when because I always take my bus, and here we go. That’s why I tend to like driving my bus everywhere.” – John Daly on his plane situation to get to Columbus
Perhaps it’s just best to end this piece with Woody Austin who shot a 5-over-par 75 in round one and was not afraid to be honest about the current state of his game.
Driving, obviously, you were in the rough a lot today?
WOODY AUSTIN: Yeah. I drove it in the crap all day long.
Q.Is it something that just came out of nowhere?
WOODY AUSTIN: No. I’ve been playing bad for the last 3 months, 3 1/2 months. I haven’t driven it this bad, but it always shows up more in an Open when you finally have some rough. It’s fine by me. I think it should happen that way more often. It’s just when you play like a dog, you play like a dog.
Q. Obviously, you won three times early in the year. Is it just the driving that’s been a problem for you just recently?
WOODY AUSTIN: No. I think I sold my soul to the devil when I won, and now I can’t play golf worth a crap. No matter what I do, I can’t do anything right. So maybe — you know, looking back, obviously, it’s good to win, but I don’t know if I really wanted this much garbage golf just because I won.