U.S. Senior Open players get rough introduction to Del Paso course


U.S. Senior Open winners Olin Browne (2011) and Roger Chapman (2012) got their first look at Del Paso Country Club over the weekend.

It only took until the par-3 second hole Sunday for the rough to make an impression during their practice round together.

“We just missed the green to the left and lost the ball,” Chapman said.

Del Paso doesn’t offer significant challenges in the way of potential penalty strokes or tricked-up putting surfaces, but it has a good length as a 6,900-yard, par 70 and some of the most penal rough around the greens Browne said he’s ever seen.

“This rough is the thickest I’ve seen in my five Senior Opens,” he said. “The rough around the greens is every bit as significant as it was (for U.S. Opens) at Congressional in 1997 or Winged Foot in 2006. It’s long. It’s very lush.”

At No. 15, Al Mellan, Browne’s caddie, threw six balls into the rough to the right of the green. With the hole close to the right edge of the green and no more than 20 feet away, the best Browne did was get a ball within 8 feet. Mellan, wielding Browne’s putter, made one of the resulting putts, not the percentage the duo desired.

“It’s painfully apparent you don’t want to be short-sided this week,” Browne said. “There are plenty of courses where being short-sided is not bad. For example, at Sawgrass, which you think would be crazy, sometimes short side is better than being in the middle of the green away from the pin. This is not one of those courses.”

Browne, Chapman and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who deferred comment on his experience at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay until Monday, were among roughly 50 pros getting a feel for Del Paso on Sunday.

Chapman said the first couple of times around a course that is new to him, he simply tries to find lines off tees and get a general feel. He plans to play only nine holes each day to conserve energy – 100-degree days are forecast for Thursday and Friday – and plan more specifically as the week goes on.

“I’ll be looking more closely at the greens,” he said. “What’s your best strategy for coming into par-5s or short par-4s, seeing which side of the fairway you’ve got to be on – that type of stuff.”

Browne said he tries to get a broad understanding and some idea of what the United States Golf Association plans to do.

“This is not the course we’re going to see come Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “It’s softer. The balls aren’t going very far in the fairway. The greens are receptive.

“Having played for 25 years, you know what to expect as the week progresses. They’re going to take water off the course and put a premium on driving the ball and accuracy with irons. You can make an extrapolation. Of course, they always have tricks up their sleeve. You’re still going to be stumped.”

Parnevik out, birthday boy in – Jesper Parnevik withdrew because of illness. He was replaced by amateur Pat Thompson, an Asheville, N.C., resident who learned of his inclusion on his 57th birthday.

Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.