WALTON HEATH, England (July 23, 2011) -- Each day there have been progressively more spectators watching and rooting on the players at this beautiful course, Walton Heath outside of London. I must say that these are the best golf fans I’ve ever witnessed with their enthusiasm and appreciation for the game.
With about 200-300 spectators at the first tee, I did feel a tremendous amount of pressure that I’m not sure I really enjoyed. It was hard to breath and my heart was pounding. The tee shot is a 3 metal, which I had hit poorly the previous day. The tee shot at No. 1 has heavy heather right that will result in a bogey or worse. So far I’m 3 for 3 off number 1 and hope to make it 4/4 tomorrow when I’ll be feeling the heat again. That kind of pressure makes me miss the amateur events I play in where the light butterflies are welcomed off the 1st tee.
Today was a different start after the first two days where I made birdies on the first two holes -- today my start was not great with a par on No. 1 and a disappointing par on the par-5 2nd after hitting the green in two shots and then three putting. But I was determined to get it going and after a solid drive and wedge on No. 3 I was able to get things going with a birdie followed by birdies on Nos. 5 and 6 to get back to even for the tournament. My issue has always been driving the ball consistently straight on really tight holes and at No. 7 I hit a pull hook that got extremely lucky to find light rough, a shot on the green and a par after a poor tee shot.
My two bogeys on the day occurred on the 8th and 13th holes, but the key to this round were the birdies on the tough 12th and 14th holes. If you drive the ball in these fairways you can get the ball close on these greens. My other nemesis had been No. 16 where I finally decided to hit 3 wood, despite the hole being 480 yards long, I hit a huge three wood followed by a 215 yard four iron to 10 feet.
To shoot a 68 in a senior major is actually hard for me to believe, and I’m savoring it like I savor every day of life being healthy and having the opportunities that I have blessed with. Just being around all these great players is a treat, they are warm and genuinely nice and friendly people. I especially enjoy Michael Allen (fellow Olympian) who came over tonight with his family for dinner and some good conversation.
The life these guys live is not as glamorous as what we see on TV, it’s hard work, discipline and a lot of tiring travel. I am already exhausted and I still have the U.S. Senior Open to get to on Monday for a Tuesday practice round.
Tomorrow I will enjoy every moment of being on this golf course playing in front of this wonderful crowd and my family that came over to watch me play. I have a 6 shot lead over my friend Paul Simson for low amateur honors and the Silver Metal, but the goal of the day will be to just soak in the experience and focus on each shot.
Below is a picture of my mum Shirley Haag giving me a hug after a hard fought 68. Having her here watching me play 72 holes of golf is the greatest thing for me as she is the sole reason I was able to play golf as a young boy growing up. She is 81 and has been these each step of the way in the gallery. These moments and experiences are hard to write about because our parents mean so much to us, and spending time with them as they get older is important, especially since she has always been my biggest supporter over the last 40 years I’ve been playing this game.
Tomorrow I expect this course to play tough, with firmer conditions and tougher pins. I will concentrate on one shot at a time, there will be a smile on my face regardless of how I play!
Stay tuned for the final round at the Senior Open.