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No Watson, no Couples, no prob: previewing the U.S. Senior Open

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When the U.S. Senior open tees off at Inverness later this week, it'll mark the return of one of the game's best-known courses to the elite level of golf, and it'll also serve as a de facto dress rehearsal for that next U.S. Open that Inverness craves.

The course itself has seen a dramatic (if temporary) reworking, as holes 3-7 and holes 12-16 will switch places. (Not literally, of course.) The move is designed to alleviate traffic flow at the out-and-back course.

The defending champion is Bernhard Langer, who won going away at Sahalee last year. Should he win again, he'll join some impressive company: Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin and Allen Doyle have all won two Senior Opens, and Miller Barber won three.

Still, this event may be just as notable for who's not present as who is: Tom Watson, Paul Azinger, Fred Couples, Greg Norman and several other notables are not in attendance for various reasons. The tournament will miss them, though their fellow competitors probably won't.

Inverness is hoping to land the 2020 U.S. Open, the next one available. The next three U.S. Senior Opens will be throughout the Midwest, in Michigan, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Fun fact: during the 1979 U.S. Open at Inverness, Lon Hinkle discovered that he could cut a huge chunk off the 528-yard dogleg left 8th hole by hitting onto the nearby 17th fairway. The course marshals got wise to his game immediately, however, and planted a 20-foot black spruce that evening to block the angle. (Here's more on that story.)

The tournament will air Thursday and Friday on ESPN2 and Saturday and Sunday on NBC. Check it out.

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