One thing’s for sure after 54 holes of the 2015 U.S. Senior Open.
Nobody has run away with it.
Bernhard Langer and Jeff Maggert lead at Del Paso Country Club, but there are 10 players within one shot of the top and 16 within two.
“Bunched” doesn’t begin to describe the leaderboard. “Scrunched,” maybe.
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“If you love golf ... this is what it’s all about, a lot of good players with a chance to win,” said Grant Waite, one of eight players a shot behind in second.
So grab a spot in sight of a leaderboard and hold on to your hat in Sunday’s final round.
Langer (2-under-par 68) and Maggert (70) bogeyed the last hole Saturday to contribute to the compaction.
So is Kenny Perry, who started the day seven shots off the lead. He birdied six of his first eight holes in a course-record-tying 64.
The streaky Perry came from 10 shots behind after 36 holes to win the 2013 U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, Neb. He closed 64-63 that weekend.
“I did it once; hopefully I can do it a second time,” he said.
Langer hit 16 of 18 greens Saturday. One of his hiccups came at No. 18 when his approach shot didn’t clear the gnarly grass on the bank in front of the green. Even so, he wouldn’t trade places with anybody.
“It’s good to be in the last group,” he said. “That way, you have an idea of what you need to do coming down the last few holes.”
Perry, Langer and Montgomerie, the defending champion, are Senior Open winners. Montgomerie, 52, who didn’t win a major until turning 50, has made his three wins since then major titles.
He wasn’t pleased with his play Saturday, and kept his comments pointed afterward.
“I was four shots back last year (when I won),” he said. “One back this year.”
Watson, looking to win his first Senior Open at age 65 after finishing second three times, had brief putting lapses on No. 7 (short miss) and No. 8 (three-putt after running his 25-foot birdie putt 8 feet past).
He’s not one to put his head in the sand with an elusive major title at stake.
3 Runner-up finishes in the U.S. Senior Open by Tom Watson, who seeks his first win at 65
“I’ll be watching (the scoreboard) the whole day,” Watson said. “I want to know my position and what I have to do.”
Maggert drove into the right rough on No. 18 and was forced to lay up with his second shot. He stuck his third shot within 15 feet but left his par putt agonizingly short.
He has seven top-10 U.S. Open finishes but no national championship hardware. Being in the final twosome will be a benefit, he said, adding that it’s better to be the hunted than the hunter, especially when conditions are tough.
“This course is not going to yield a lot of low numbers,” he said.
Play begins Sunday at 6:30 a.m. in twosomes. The leaders will start shortly after noon.
Funk, 59, would be the championship’s oldest winner. He and Woody Austin, both among the most demonstrative players anywhere, are multiple winners on the PGA Tour. A win by either would be no surprise.
Austin had several narrow misses with his putter from short range, his head invariably ending up in his hands. He said the course setup is contributing to the leaderboard logjam.
“The golf course isn’t playing as hard as it should be playing,” he said, “and that’s why you’re seeing so many low numbers.”
There’s a good chance that will change Sunday. If the tees on the par-4 ninth hole are moved up to make the green drivable, that will add to the drama.
Waite and Carter are sectional qualifiers. The muscular Waite, voted most likely to be able to do the most pushups in an informal pre-championship poll, won the 1993 Kemper Open for his only PGA Tour victory. Carter won the 2000 Touchstone Energy Tucson Open for his only PGA Tour win.
Carter embraces Sunday’s challenge.
“I just want to go out and have my best day ever,” he said. “Usually somebody lights it up, and hopefully that will be me.”
Hometown favorite Kevin Sutherland (70) is far from out of it, two shots back.
His goal? “You don’t set out to shoot 5 under; you set out to make five birdies,” he said. “If I can do that, we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526
TODAY’S TEE TIMES
6:45 a.m. – Finster, Wilson
6:54 a.m. – Mielke, Brooks
7:03 a.m. – Soon Lu, Dantzler
7:12 a.m. – Schneiter, Ryan
7:21 a.m. – Irwin, Bruckner
7:30 a.m. – Delsing, Goydos
7:39 a.m. – Wood, Triplett
7:48 a.m. – Lancaster, Simpson
7:57 a.m. – Wiebe, Armour
8:06 a.m. – Mitchell, Jones
8:15 a.m. – Ames, Sauers
8:25 a.m. – Horgan, Levitt
8:35 a.m. – Smith, Frost
8:45 a.m. – Sisk, Byrum
8:55 a.m. – Kuramoto, Bryant
9:05 a.m. – Idoki, Golding
9:15 a.m. – McCoy, Lardon
9:25 a.m. – Edwards, Browne
9:35 a.m. – Pavin, Allen
9:45 a.m. – Senior, Boros
9:55 a.m. – Verplank, Murota
10:05 a.m. – Wesselingh, Pernice Jr.
10:15 a.m. – Toledo, Dawson
10:25 a.m. – Andrade, Janzen
10:35 a.m. – Hart, Woosnam
10:45 a.m. – Lehman, Hoch
10:55 a.m. – Cochran, Riegger
11:05 a.m. – Haas, Mediate
11:15 a.m. – Fowler, Bryant
11:25 a.m. – Sutherland, Lane
11:35 a.m. – Waldorf, Jimenez
11:45 a.m. – Watson, Montgomerie
11:55 a.m. – Carter, Austin
12:05 p.m. – Waite, Dunlap
12:15 p.m. – Funk, Perry
12:25 p.m. – Maggert, Langer