U.S. Senior Open: Players to watch

Fred Couples tees off in the Northern Trust Open in February. Couples seeks his 12th Champions Tour victory.
Fred Couples tees off in the Northern Trust Open in February. Couples seeks his 12th Champions Tour victory. The Associated Press

Some of the best golfers on the planet are coming to the US Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club June 22-28, 2015. As Butch Cassidy said to the Sundance Kid in the 1969 film: “Who are those guys?” Sacramento Bee golf writer Steve Pajak offers his take on five players in each of the following categories:

5 under-the-radar contenders

▪ Marco Dawson: He’s hitting his stride after not winning in 413 career PGA Tour starts.

▪ Joe Durant: He’s third in Schwab Cup points and one of the most accurate drivers ever.

▪ Lee Janzen: The two-time U.S. Open winner has pedigree and new over-50 positive outlook.

▪ Tom Pernice Jr.: At a physically fit 55, he seems to be getting better, not older.

▪ Gene Sauers: The playoff loser last year in Oklahoma is due for a breakthrough.

5 certain to keep you entertained

▪ Woody Austin: He’s self-deprecating, accountable and demonstrative – a golf fan’s dream.

▪ Fred Funk: His body English when he putts is worth the price of admission.

▪ Paul Goydos: He has the game to win a Senior Open – and he has the wit of a talk-show host.

▪ Craig Stadler: In his 60s, the fire doesn’t burn as bright as it used to. Still ...

▪ Esteban Toledo: Look for the former boxer to give 1-2 air punch after he drains a key putt.

5 major players in their day, if not today

▪ Mark Calcavecchia: He rode power fade to 13 PGA Tour wins and 1989 British Open title.

▪ Fred Couples: You’ll know he’s headed your way when the crowd skews heavily female.

▪ Hale Irwin: The career leader in Champions Tour wins (45) and earnings is 70.

▪ Tom Kite: He counts the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach among his 19 PGA Tour wins.

▪ Tom Watson: Eight-time major winner might be most likely to defy his age (65).

5 with Northern California connections

▪ Terry Foreman: The amateur from Brentwood is playing in his first Senior Open.

▪ Randy Haag: The amateur from Burlingame is four-time NCGA player of the year and all-time points leader.

▪ Jim Knoll: The amateur from Sunnyvale is playing in his third Senior Open.

▪ Bob Niger: The El Dorado Hills pro has qualified for 16 Champions Tour events in five years.

▪ Jeff Wilson: The amateur from Fairfield has qualified for the past three Senior Opens.

5 of the nicest guys you’ll ever ...

▪ Michael Allen: He blossomed as a senior tour player and appreciates every minute of it.

▪ Peter Jacobsen: Colorful and engaging, his likeability quotient is off the charts.

▪ Tom Lehman: He’s as grounded as they come for being as accomplished as he is.

▪ Rocco Mediate: He’s always talking, always laughing, always playing highly competitive golf.

▪ Loren Roberts: He donated $35,000 in 2009 to save nine Elk Grove district golf programs.

5 most likely to hold the trophy

▪ Miguel Angel Jimenez: At No. 47 in world, he’s by far the highest-ranked player in the field.

▪ Bernhard Langer: He has been the dominant over-50 player in the world for the past seven years.

Colin Montgomerie: The defending champion has become a major force on the Champions Tour.

Kenny Perry: Del Paso suits great players, especially long hitters who like to draw the ball.

Vijay Singh: At 52, he’s still slugging it out and competitive most weeks on the PGA Tour.

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