August 16, 2016
A decade after battling a rare illness that nearly killed him and kept him off the golf course for seven years, Gene Sauers celebrated his first victory on the senior tour.
Sauers closed with a 1-under 69 and took advantage of another collapse by Miguel Angel Jimenez to win the rain-delayed U.S. Senior Open on Monday.
The 53-year-old from Georgia finished with three straight pars to go from a one-shot deficit to a one-shot victory over Jimenez and Billy Mayfair at Scioto Country Club. He finished with a 3-under 277 for the tournament.
''It hasn't sunk in yet,'' he said. ''It's been a long time, and I'm at a loss for words right now.''
The victory caps an amazing comeback for Sauers 10 years removed from nearly dying. He was incorrectly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, spent seven weeks in the hospital and was given a 25 percent chance of survival. Eventually he was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare disorder of the skin and mucous membranes that causes the skin on the extremities to burn from the inside out.
Some days, he couldn't even get off the couch.
''It means the world to me,'' he said. ''I saw the light at the end of that tunnel, and I was heading there. The good Lord stopped me and backed me up and said, no, you're not done yet. It's just unbelievable to not play golf, not touch a golf club for seven years and to come out and to win a major golf tournament on a hard golf course.''
Jimenez had a one-shot advantage going into the final round but again blew a lead. He led Sauers by a stroke to start the day but double-bogeyed the second hole, and Sauers birdied to overtake him. The Spaniard regained the lead with a birdie on the 15th hole, a two-shot swing when Sauers made bogey, only to bogey the 17th hole.
They were tied on the 18th, but Jimenez missed the green and made a second straight bogey. Sauers made a 5-foot par putt to win.
Sauers had 17 top-10 finishes in five years on the senior tour but hadn't managed a win. He last won a PGA Tour event in 2002.
Sauers now is exempt into the U.S. Open next year at Erin Hills.
''Being back to playing with these guys, it's a pleasure,'' he said. ''I didn't think I'd ever be here. I told my wife, when I was in the hospital, I didn't think I was ever coming out. She kept me strong.''
For Jimenez, it was the third consecutive tournament he let a lead slip away.
Three weeks ago at Carnoustie in the Senior British Open, the 52-year-old Spaniard took a four-stroke lead into the last day, then shot 75 and tied for third - three strokes behind winner Paul Broadhurst. Last week in the 3M Championship, he was a stroke ahead entering the final round and ended up losing when Joe Durant shot 63 and eagled the first hole of a playoff.
''I'm human, you know?'' Jimenez said. ''I'm going to make bogeys. I'm going to make birdies. It's the way it's coming. That moment is not on my side.''
Mayfair carded four birdies against a single bogey for a 3-under 67. Ian Woosnam was the only other player under par, finishing fourth at 1-under after a 68.
''All four days we saw different golf courses,'' Mayfair said. ''Kind of medium on Thursday. It wasn't all that bad, that windy, but it was still hard to play on Friday. Of course, Saturday the wind started blowing. It was blowing all over the place. Today it was wet and soft and hardly any wind. We got to see Scioto in four different ways on four different days.''
August 14, 2016
The final round of the U.S. Senior Open was postponed Sunday because of heavy rain, giving Miguel Angel Jimenez another night to sleep on the third-round lead.
The course at the Scioto Country Club absorbed 2.36 inches of rain late Saturday and Sunday, leading to the decision late Sunday afternoon. The USGA had hoped to get at least the first groups through during a break in the rain on Sunday, but the course was too wet to play.
Rain was forecast for Monday, too. The first groups are scheduled to off at 7:30 a.m.
''We're going to have a drying period overnight, and we think we've got a shot to get it in tomorrow,'' said John M. Bodenhamer, the USGA's senior managing director of rules, competitions & equipment standards.
Jimenez was at 3-under 207 on Jack Nicklaus' boyhood course, a stroke ahead of Gene Sauers, and in position to win after blowing leads in his last two tournaments.
Three weeks ago at Carnoustie in the Senior British Open, the 52-year-old Jimenez took a four-stroke lead into the last day, only to shoot 75 and tie for third - three strokes behind winner Paul Broadhurst. Last week in the 3M Championship, The Spanish player was a stroke ahead entering the final round and ended up losing when Joe Durant shot 63 and eagled the first hole of a playoff.
He said the delay in finishing the tournament is inconvenient more than anything else.
''I think all the people have the same effect, you know?'' he said. ''And everybody wants to finish a tournament on Sunday. That's with everything. It will affect hotels, flights and everything. So anyway, we have to do what we have to do.''
Ian Woosnam, Loren Roberts and senior newcomer Billy Mayfair were tied for third at 1 over.
The 53-year-old Sauers said a delay and a soggy course won't change how he'll approach his round Monday.
''You have to just keep hitting fairways and greens and give yourself opportunities,'' Sauers said. ''I'm going to the range a bit right now and try to work out things, try to work the ball left to right, vice versa, and try to figure out how I feel today,'' he said. ''I wasn't too comfortable yesterday. So I'm going to try to see where I feel today and hopefully continue it into tomorrow, just kind of not think about things and just kind of relax and clear my mind of all what's been happening today, because I was ready to play today.''
Bernhard Langer, tied for sixth place at 2 over, said some adjustments will be necessary Monday after the dry, hard course they played in the first three rounds.
''It will play quite different because it was pretty firm,'' Langer said. ''So (we'll) probably get plugged balls in the fairways, mud balls. So don't know if they'll play preferred lies or not, and the greens will be softer, might spin balls back off the green instead of going over. So things like that. It will be different.''
August 14, 2016
Miguel Angel Jimenez was back on top on a Saturday, this time in the U.S. Senior Open at difficult Scioto County Club. The 52-year-old Spanish player was looking for a better late Sunday afternoon result after missing chances in his last two events.
Jimenez put himself in position to break out of the title funk Saturday, finishing off a 1-under 69 in gusty wind and sheets of rain to take a one-stroke lead. He was in a lot better shape in Scotland and Minnesota in the last two tournaments - and came up empty.
Three weeks ago at Carnoustie in the Senior British Open, Jimenez took a four-stroke lead into the last day, only to shoot 75 and tie for third - three strokes behind winner Paul Broadhurst. Last week in the 3M Championship, Jimenez was a stroke ahead entering the final round and ended up losing when Joe Durant shot 63 and eagled the first hole of a playoff.
''Just keep playing golf and give myself patience. That's the main thing,'' Jimenez said. ''Whatever happens, happens. Obviously, at the Open in Scotland, I lost that tournament there without playing bad, and here tomorrow we have to play 18 holes, and whatever happens happens. Just keep focused and enjoy yourself. That's the main thing.''
Jimenez won in Mississippi in March for his third career PGA Tour Champions victory. He has 15 regular European Tour victories, the last in the 2014 Spanish Open at a tour-record 50 years, 133 days. And ''The Mechanic'' is famous for the quirky, fun-loving ways that have prompted some to call him ''The Most Interesting Man in the World.''
''Of course, you have to enjoy yourself, and I enjoy myself,'' Jimenez said. ''You look at my office, no? It's a great life, no? That's what I want to do in my life is play golf. I will do what I want to do in my life for a living, and golf is not my job. It's also my hobby. Of course, when I finish here, I'm going to have a big fat cigar with a nice glass of wine and enjoy my wife and my family and my people who are here.''
Jimenez had a 3-under 207 total on Jack Nicklaus' boyhood course. Gene Sauers was second after a 71. Ian Woosnam (70), Loren Roberts (70) and senior newcomer Billy Mayfair (75) were tied for third at 1 over.
Jimenez was one of just four players who were below par for the day. Three strokes behind Joey Sindelar entering the round, Jimenez had four birdies and three bogeys, with the three bogeys coming in a four-hole stretch. After making two birdies on the front nine, he birdied the 12th, bogeyed 13 and 14, birdie 15, bogeyed 16 and finished with two pars just as sheets of driving rain rolled in on top of the suffocating heat and humidity that has worn down the players all week.
''The conditions, they are tough today, especially because of the wind,'' Jimenez said. ''The greens were softer on the first two rounds, but it's the gusting wind there that (makes it) not easy to choose the club, the right club. Sometimes it will go a place that you don't (want) to.''
Sauers also battled the wind and had four birdies and five bogeys.
''The heat, the wind, the rain on the last hole - it was a brutal day,'' said the 53-year-old Sauers, winless on the senior tour.
Sindelar had a 77 to drop into a tie for sixth at 2 over.
''Golf's hard,'' the 58-year-old former Ohio State player said. ''U.S. Open's harder. And I thought for the most part, I was pretty happy with the way I played. It wasn't horrible. Just a couple of uglies, and it played hard out there. Problem is, we've got a pretty good guy out there in the lead and a couple more really good ones right behind him.''
First-round leader Vijay Singh was 6 over, following his opening 66 with two 75s.
August 13, 2016
Joey Sindelar, one of four former Ohio State players in the U.S. Senior Open at Scioto Country Club in suburban Columbus, has felt the support of the hometown crowd all week.
It apparently was a big help Friday. The 58-year-old Sindelar shot a 4-under 66 on a hot and humid day to take the second-round lead. He had five birdies, including two in a row after a bogey on No. 5. After finishing the first round with a 69, he was at 5 under overall.
''I've never been unconvinced that that many people in your corner, as the four of us have witnessed this week, cannot somehow kind of talk you into what might happen,'' Sindelar said.
His highlight was a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th, after pars on the six previous holes.
''I'm seeing the line very well, and I seem to be able to hit the ball where I'm looking, and so far it's been a fun week with the putter,'' said Sindelar, whose best finish in a senior event was a second in 2009.
Billy Mayfair, making his first senior start after turning 50 last Saturday, was a stroke back after a 67. He had four birdies and a bogey.
''Any time you put the words USGA in front of a tournament, first of all, they're going to be the best venues you're ever going to find, and they're going to be set up very difficult,'' Mayfair said. ''You've got to drive the ball well. You've got to hit good, smart iron shots, and you've got to position the ball on the green really well. Usually, that's below the hole. The greens will get firmer and firmer.''
First-round leader Vijay Singh followed his opening 66 with a 75 to drop into a tie for eighth at 1 over.
''I didn't hit that many fairways,'' Singh said. ''It was a lot windier today. I got some bad breaks, didn't putt as well. But all in all, I managed. I didn't play as bad as what the score reads.''
Defending champion Jeff Maggert also was 1 over after a 71. He won last year at Del Paso in California.
Sindelar said stamina has been factor for the 50-and-over players in the blistering heat and high humidity. For one thing, Sindelar said he also had trouble keeping his hands dry on the club. The conditions also have worked in their favor, with the course playing hard and fast.
''Some of us have aged way different than others,'' he said. ''I'm extremely arthritic so the heat is good for me. It keeps me loose so I'm kind of enjoying it. But, boy, at night we're cramping no matter how much you drink. Everybody got beat down a little. It's just tough physically to go through that out there.''
John Daly had an 81 to miss the cut. He had three double bogeys, six bogeys and a birdie.
Bernhard Langer was tied for 23rd at 3 over after a 70.
Because of the threat of rain Saturday, the players will play in threesomes starting at about 7:30 a.m.
August 12, 2016
Vijay Singh rebounded from a bad shot on the 17th to birdie the final hole Thursday and take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the U.S. Senior Open.
Still playing full-time on the PGA Tour at age 53, the big Fijian shot a 4-under 66 on a hot and humid afternoon at Scioto Country Club, the suburban Columbus course where Jack Nicklaus learned to play.
Singh pushed his tee shot right and bogeyed the par-3 17th. On the par-4 18th, he hit his second shot to 4 feet. The three-time major champion hit 13 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens.
''I'm driving the ball well,'' said Singh, coming off a tie for 56th on Sunday in Connecticut in the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship. ''I'm hitting my irons good. Playing the regular tour, I've been playing pretty decent out there too. I came here (and) obviously expected to play well, and I just played well today.''
Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jeff Gallagher, Michael Allen, Gene Sauers and Glen Day shot 68.
''The weather is good. It's perfect. It's hot, humid,'' Jimenez said. ''This heat is going to drain a lot from you and probably (make things) more difficult, not because the course is more difficult, but the situation for the players that will be there at the end of the weekend.''
Singh is winless in nine career starts on the 50-and-over tour
''Every time I tee it up (in senior events), if I don't win, I'm really disappointed,'' Singh said. ''So I put a lot more pressure on myself, and that's not very good. I force myself to play well over here instead of just playing. So my attitude this week is just go and play and see what happens.''
Singh finished second this year in the PGA Tour's Quicken Loans National in June, but missed the cut at the British Open and the PGA Championship. He said the dry, hard course at Scioto was a tough test.
''It was really firm,'' Singh said. ''Couldn't stop even a sand wedge. Nothing was spinning. If you missed a green, it was very difficult to get up and down.''
The hot, dry conditions aren't supposed to last, with rain forecast Friday and Saturday.
Defending champion Jeff Maggert had a 70. He won last year at Del Paso in California.
''The course is playing great, very difficult,'' Maggert said. ''Just every hole is demanding. You got to keep the ball on the fairway and pay attention to what you're doing around the greens, make sure you're giving yourself some opportunities to putt for birdies. Missing the greens here can really hurt you pretty bad too. It's a ball striker's course, and I'm hitting the ball well. So hopefully, the putter will cooperate over the next three days, and I can finish it off with a good tournament.''
John Daly also shot 70.
''I actually hit the ball decent today,'' Daly said. ''I made a few putts, but nothing special. It was cool to play pretty much 16 holes bogey-free. I made a few 5- and 6-footers for pars as well, which helped. I had not been putting very good.''
Bernhard Langer opened with a 73.