While Tom Watson has played most of the first day of the U.S. Senior Open in a blissful state of below-par Zen, he's gaining some followers. Loren Roberts, teamed with Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw on Thursday and Friday, has been attacking Sahalee as one is supposed to do — with caution and the awareness of when to go for an opening. Roberts played the first four holes at par, then took the 14th and 16th par-4 holes (his fifth and seventh, as he was playing the back nine first) for birdies, as he did at the second hole, a par-5.
I walked with the threesome through the second, third and fourth holes (their 10th through 12th), and Roberts definitely showed the most consistency. Crenshaw kept blocking himself into punch shots with left-fringers behind trees off the tee (it's not hard to do — the darned things are everywhere).
Kite made a highlight shot with this third at the second hole — on a downhill lie from the fringe behind the left-side bunker at the green, he gave it a Phil-flop to a foot away from the hole. A great shot, but as we've discussed, Sahalee is not about recovery — it doesn't reward the up-and-down crowd. Kite also wins my preliminary "What's in my bag?" award — he's rocking the long putter as always, and his driver looks like a pot pie on a stick.
Roberts, on the other hand, wasn't interested in recovery through the first 14 holes — he took a bogey on the 15th (which is where we stand as I write this), but has kept most everything in the frame so far. That puts Roberts and Watson both at 2-under, with Tim Jackson there as well, and Bruce Vaughan leading at 3-under. How did he do that? Fairways hit. That's how it goes here.
In the next few hours, we'll have interviews with the leaders, plus the results of my time with the threesome that includes Peter Jacobsen and Fred Funk. From artistry to comedy? Indeed, but Funk also has a pretty good shot at this tournament. It's always interesting at Sahalee...