Playing the Field: Who else can win the U.S. Senior Open?

Before we get carried away with the talk of a two-horse race between Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer at the U.S. Senior Open, let's take a quick look at the field right below them. At -5 each, Couples and Langer hold five-shot leads, but that insures nothing at Sahalee Country Club - remember that Bruce Vaughan went four-under on Thursday and responded with Friday's +12. Unless you play this course the right way, your first good round may be your last. And if the two top start to fall, who's best-positioned to take advantage?

Even (210)

Chien Soon Lu - Lu actually matched Couples' amazing 31 on the front nine yesterday with five birdies and a bogey. Saturday's 68 was his first round under par at the tournament, but he's getting smarter about how to play this course - when you see a guy's average drive drop from 266.0 to 238.5 in one day, you know that long irons and woods are coming into play of the tee. It's a good blueprint for success here; make sure you stay straight on the narrow holes and bomb it on the few fairways that expand.

Tom Kite - Kite concedes nothing, despite the fact that he's five back. Two straight one-under 69s have given him confidence, and a hot putter has him in the fight. Kite ranks behind only Couples in putts per hole at 1.56. "You know, so much of it depends on what Freddy and Bernhard do," Kite said after his Saturday round. "They're obviously playing really well. The golf course is just unbelievably difficult, it's not giving up any good scores, I mean, 69 is about all you can hope for. You don't have to miss it very badly at all and you can just get tattooed. Wonderful golf course -- I wish we played more stuff like this, I really do. This is fun golf. It's hard golf; it beats you up, but, oh, boy, you really have to work and you have to think and you pay attention. And I enjoy it because I think it just increases the concentration level, it has to. If you're not concentrating, you're going to make bogeys and doubles."


Michael Allen - One over par the last two days after shooting an opening 69. Allen's another one who's kept the driver in the bag with average off the tee on Saturday of 213.0 yards. Still, he hit just 7 of 14 fairways, and that number will have to go up, because the approaches have been brutal at times. "On this course there are just certain pins I personally can't get at," Allen said yesterday. "There aren't many guys that can, so you have to pick your spot but I'm going to definitely need to be aggressive and they're not going to come that far back to me so I've got to get out and make some birdies tomorrow. And if I can get three or four on the front nine it will give me a good chance on the back nine."

Peter Senior - Then, there are players like Senior who don't fear the driver at all - he averaged 287.5 yards off the tee yesterday, his highest total of the tournament so far. Of course, he may have felt a bit puffed up, as yesterday was also his birthday. "I played really well; hit a lot of good shots. I had a lot of opportunity to shoot a good score but the greens are difficult to read and I hit a lot of good putts. Most of the guys out there have been hitting good putts and they're not going in, but if you can shoot under par on the course you're happy with the day."

Tommy Armour III - The man with the short backswing and the long hair has played a complete game here; Armour is third in driving distance (291.33), and he leads the field in greens in regulation at 81 percent. Were it not for his two double bogeys yesterday, he'd be on the precipice, waiting to make a move. "I can't shoot 72 again," he said. "I've just got to go out and play. The course is in good shape. You've got to hit in the fairway and hit good shots."

John Cook - Another guy who shot 72 yesterday and needs to adjust. Cook made five bogeys and just 10 pars on Saturday. He's been low in fairway percentage all week. "It would be tough to catch them, but if I can shoot 4 or 5 under like Freddy did today, it's a different game," said Cook of his chances against Couples and Langer. It is out there, you just don't get it your own way. I hit a couple of shots in the wrong spots and didn't really I lost my momentum. I had a good thing going, just I had a bad lie there, made a birdie at 11, then a poor tee shot at 12. So I started to get it back and 3 putt 14, missed 15 and 16, I could have been up there closer, but ... I know what to do; [I] just have to be really tidy tomorrow."

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