Golf

Del Paso No. 15 offers longest challenge at U.S. Senior Open

pkitagaki@sacbee.com

The par-5, 636-yard 15th hole at Del Paso Country Club is now the longest in the 36 years the United States Golf Association has held the U.S. Senior Open.

The USGA did say Wednesday that a second tee box, only 590 yards from the middle of the green, might be used but did not say when.

“(No. 15) does play with the prevailing wind, and the southwest wind will be slightly on your right on the tee shot but straight downwind on your second and third shot,” said Jeff Hall, USGA managing director of rules and competitions.

“I’ve chatted with a couple of players, and I’ve heard anything from 6-irons to 8-irons when they’ve played the 636 tee. But I think you’ll see us move the tee markers around there, too – especially when you go to that 590 tee, all of a sudden, it shifts the drive zone further left, and there are angles. They need to pay attention to their angles because it will change significantly. In that regard, where we try to let them know, we’ve put two sets of tee markers out for practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. We’re trying to communicate to them. Hopefully, they’ve noticed that.”

Then there is the issue of pin placement. The 15th green has a hump in the middle, meaning slopes in the front and back. The front is protected by bunkers on the left and right. The back of the green slopes into deep rough.

“Obviously, if you place the tee at 636 yards and go to a back-hole location, you’re going to be in the 645 range for the hole. That’s a pretty big hole,” Hall said. “But if you do go to a back-hole location there, you’ve got 30 yards of green to work with in front of it to get the ball back to it. So we try to be thoughtful but challenging with our hole locations. And obviously, what we might do on a par-5 is going to be slightly different than, say, the third hole at 490 yards as a par-4. We try to be very mindful of that.”

Early Wednesday, the USGA was measuring and plotting where the four different pin placements will be on each hole for the four days of the championship.

So what will a challenging pin placement on No. 15 look like on championship Sunday?

“If I was an evil wizard, I’d place the pin up front next to that (greenside) bunker,” Fred Funk said.

That would mean Funk would make his fellow players muscle the ball about 630 yards and then have to hit a touch shot to the pin without landing in the sand. Evil wizard, indeed.

Sutherland aloneSacramento native Kevin Sutherland is the only Champions Tour player to be a dues-paying member of any course on the 2015 schedule.

So does Sutherland get a couple of extra strokes off his score because of his course knowledge, or does he have to give a couple of strokes to the other 155 competitors?

Langer, others get involved After winning the 1985 Masters, Bernhard Langer said he felt empty inside. At 28, he said he turned his life over to God and has since given his testimony throughout the world.

He did so Wednesday night, when he and fellow Champions Tour players Loren Roberts and Scott Simpson joined nearly 500 others at a Youth for Christ Ministries event at North Ridge Country Club.

“We have the opportunity to speak in front of about 400, 450 people – not far from here, at another golf course – and the three of us … we will share some golf stories and part of our testimony, Christian testimony, and it’s a lot of fun,” Langer said.

“People seem to be interested. Everybody seems to be searching for something. I’ll be glad to, hopefully, help somebody find the truth and point him in the right direction.”

Luck of the drawAs the replacement for Fred Couples, who withdrew Tuesday, Paul Trittler will play the first two rounds with 1982 U.S. Open champion Tom Watson and 1989 Open runner-up Ian Woosnam.

Said Trittler, 56, a golf instructor in Scottsdale, Ariz.: “It’s always fun playing with the best players in the world.”

ReminderSpectators cannot bring an item that is larger than 6-by-6 inches and a clear bag that is larger than 12-by-12 inches. Because of the heat, two sealed bottles of water (24-ounce maximum) will be allowed.

Shuttle riders will not be allowed onto buses to Del Paso Country Club with any item exceeding those size limits.

Mark Billingsley: editorwriter@att.net, editorwriter001.

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