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Published: 6/26/2003

Big hitters won't have drivers out often

BY BLADE SPORTS WRITERS
Gary Player shows some of the 21,000 who watched the pros practice at Inverness how an expert gets out of the sand. Gary Player shows some of the 21,000 who watched the pros practice at Inverness how an expert gets out of the sand.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

John Jacobs enters today's first round of the U.S. Senior Open fresh off his major championship earlier this month at the Senior PGA Championship.

As one of the game's big hitters, though, he knows that the Inverness Club layout will not favor his bid for a second straight major title.

“I can't figure out what to hit off the tees after two [practice] days out here,'' he said.

Jacobs wondered why it's always the big hitters who are penalized by course setup.

“The farther you go on the fairways, the more it narrows down,'' Jacobs said. “They do that so that a guy who drives the ball a long way doesn't have an advantage. But I know guys who putt real well and they don't do anything to handicap them on the greens.

“I guess the guys who set these courses up are short hitters. I have never seen them narrow the fairway at 250 [yards out] and widen it at 290. I'm just saying that it is kind of funny how they penalize the long hitter.''

Jacobs is among the 10 longest hitters on the Champions Tour with a driving-distance average of 282.2 yards.

But his driver will be in the bag more often than it will be out during today's first round. He said he might hit it on no more than five holes, if even that many, on Inverness' narrow, 6,983-yard layout.

“Even the holes I can hit driver on out here, the [landing areas] narrow down so much it's hardly worth it,'' Jacobs said.

POOLEY BACK: After sitting out Tuesday's practice round with a sore lower back, defending U.S. Senior Open champion Don Pooley got in nine holes yesterday at Inverness, and said he felt much better on the eve of the defense of his title.

“My back - it is much better today - it feels great, actually,'' Pooley said.

Pooley, a native of Phoenix who still makes his home in Arizona, said the 90-degree heat was not a problem.

“I like the heat - I live in Tuscon and I'm used to it being hot, so I like the heat,'' Pooley said.

Pooley, who has struggled in the two Champions Tour events he has played this season after coming back from shoulder surgery in January, said he saw signs yesterday that his game is improving.

“I kind of knew what I wanted to do after Monday's round,'' Pooley said, “but I just wanted to double-check a couple of things out there and set in my mind what I need to do. I got to work on a couple of swing thoughts that I wanted to try out, tinkered with my clubs a little bit, and I think I'm ready now.''

Pooley said he was intent on playing at Inverness, and hopes he can get in a groove as the tournament gets under way today.

“It's very important to me to be here. I don't get to defend very many tournaments, but I was going to be here at all costs; whether I could play or not, I was going to come,'' Pooley said. “I haven't played well lately, but I think I can play well. I'm hitting a lot of good shots, I'm just not as consistent now as I want to be. But I think that can change, I can get into a rhythm and things can change in a hurry out here.''

SCHROEDER DROPS OUT: John Schroeder, who has won once in his seven years on the Champions Tour, withdrew from the U.S. Senior Open yesterday because of an Achilles tendon injury. Schroeder, who won the 2001 NFL Golf Classic, had earned $208,218 in 12 Champions Tour events this year. His lone win on the PGA Tour came in the 1973 U.S. Professional Match Play event.

Schroeder is replaced by alternate Glenn MacDonald of Canada. MacDonald, who is playing in his first Senior Open, competed in a sectional qualifier on June 16 in Blaine, Wash., and lost a seven-hole playoff to Lon Hinkle.

KING ARNOLD: As Arnold Palmer was being interviewed yesterday, an emergency vehicle zipped past the media tent near Dorr Street, with sirens blaring.

The 73-year-old Palmer paused in mid-sentence, and shouted into the microphone: “I'm not dead yet.''

The room broke into laughter.

MORE ARNIE: Arnold Palmer has been hampered in recent years by arthritis in his shoulders, which has restricted his swing. So he has turned to a trainer in an attempt to help remedy his problem.

“I have been doing a lot of working out, from bench presses to stretching one or two times a day,'' he said. “Because of the restrictions of getting my arms up in the air and free motion, range of motion, I started swimming, and I swim a couple of times a day. I do things like backstroke, which has given me a little more range of motion.''

Palmer said working out has helped increase his distance off the tee.

“My trainer says he can help me. We have worked together for over a year and he thinks he can get me back to somewhere like I was when I was 60, or 55 years old, which would be pretty darn good if I can get there.

“But I still get tired after a hot day on the golf course, which I used to not do. It used to be that I didn't know what tired was. I'm beginning to find out.''

MAJOR HEADACHE: Jack Nicklaus has won 26 major championships and two U.S. Amateur titles.

But he admitted yesterday that he's not having as much fun now that he's not winning major titles or tournaments. His last win on the Champions Tour came at the 1996 GTE Suncoast Classic.

“I don't enjoy going out and finishing 30th, 40th or 50th, and missing the cut,'' he said. “I don't enjoy that at all. That's absolutely no fun whatsoever.''

PERSISTENCE PAYS: Rod Murray of Ponca City, Okla., tried to qualify for the U.S. Open every year from age 16 to 50, but never made it.

Since turning 50 four years ago, he has qualified for two Senior Opens, including the one at Inverness. He shot a 70 at the sectional qualifier, putting him in a four-way playoff for two spots. He parred the first hole to earn a spot in the field.

Overall, Murray is 2-for-37 in qualifying attempts for a USGA event.

ATTENDANCE SOARING: Yesterday's play drew an estimated 21,000 fans, an astounding number for a practice round for a senior major championship.

Attendance is expected to approach 25,000 fans per day for each four rounds of the tournament, starting today.



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