Golf

U.S. Senior Open will be a stern, local test

The view of hole No. 2 looking towards course No. 4 at the Del Paso Country Club on Thursday, April 9, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif. The prestigious U.S. Senior Men’s Open will be played June 25-28 at the Del Paso Country Club.
The view of hole No. 2 looking towards course No. 4 at the Del Paso Country Club on Thursday, April 9, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif. The prestigious U.S. Senior Men’s Open will be played June 25-28 at the Del Paso Country Club. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

It’s 52 days until they start keeping score at the 2015 U.S. Senior Open in Sacramento.

If you’re older than 50 as of June 22 with a handicap index not exceeding 3.4, there are two days left to enter.

Before you start thinking about how good you’re hitting the ball and get wide-eyed at the prospect of competing for a national golf championship in your relative backyard, do a little soul searching.

Because if you don’t, the United States Golf Association will force you to. For the world to see. And it might not be pretty.

“The USGA has a wonderful way of finding that inner soul to determine a major golf champion,” Paul Goydos said Monday at Del Paso Country Club, the host course of the Senior Open on June 25-28.

“They’re not just testing your golf skills; they’re testing you. That’s what they do best – they challenge you the person, not just you the player.”

Goydos, 50, a two-time PGA and Champions tour winner, has played in 10 U.S. Opens, with his best finish a tie for 12th in 1999. This will be his first Senior Open. His lack of success hasn’t diminished his enthusiasm for what he considers the most important tournaments in golf.

“I love playing in USGA events,” he said. “Look at the past champions. You see a lot of good characters there. A lot of guys who know themselves.”

Goydos took part in media day at Del Paso, where those who will chronicle the competition got a taste of what’s in store for next month’s 156 qualified players. After a news briefing and before sending the media out to play, Jeff Hall, the USGA’s managing director of rules and competitions, offered some advice.

“Visit (head pro) Mike (Green) in the golf shop to be sure you have enough ammunition,” he said.

Del Paso’s rough, which has been thickened but kept at a member-friendly 2 inches, was recently let loose. In the next seven weeks, the most penal areas will be grown to 5 inches, then cropped to 4 inches just before the championship.

Del Paso has rye grass throughout, except for the greens, which has allowed for constant tinkering of rough lines. Superintendent Mark McKinney has the greens and fairways exactly where the USGA wants them this far out from competition – healthy, with the ability to firm things up overnight.

“Nobody is more important than the superintendent at a USGA event,” Hall said. “Firm and fast. That’s what we’re after. We’re not after the hardest test; we’re after the most comprehensive test.”

Bleachers and tents are popping up all over the course. Ticket sales are ahead of projections, said Dan Spector, Senior Open general chairman, and he expects to reach the attendance goal of 125,000 over seven days.

Every ticketed adult can bring up to nine kids 17 and under free.

“It’s the only event where a general admission ticket can get you a front-row seat,” said Matt Sawicki, championship director.

Fox, the USGA’s new broadcast partner this year, will televise for five hours each day Thursday through Sunday. It’s the first time there will be 18-hole coverage, Sawicki said.

Corey Pavin and Fred Couples entered within the past week. Miguel Angel Jimenez found time to commit around on-course tiffs.

“There’s going to be 30 to 40 guys whose game is in good enough shape to win that week,” Goydos said. “The guy who understands himself and handles the situation is the guy who’s going to win.”

Call The Bee’s Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.

U.S. SENIOR OPEN

When: June 25-28

Where: Del Paso Country Club

Format: 156 professionals and amateurs; 72-hole stroke play; field will be cut to low 60 and ties after second round.

Practice rounds: June 22-24, 7 a.m.

First and second rounds: June 25-26, 7 a.m.

Third and fourth rounds: June 27-28, 7:30 a.m.

TV: Fox Sports

Tickets: Single-day tickets start at $39; weekly options start at $125

More information: www.2015ussenioropen.com

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