Golf analyst Gary Koch said steadiness on the greens may end up as the determining factor for the U.S. Senior Open champion.
Gary Koch and Mark Rolfing are quite familiar with Inverness Club coming into this year's U.S. Senior Open.
Koch, a part-time golfer on the Champions Tour, has played several rounds on the historic golf course through the years.
Rolfing, a longtime golf announcer, was part of NBC's broadcast team the last time the U.S. Senior Open was held at Inverness in 2003.
Both will draw on their experiences at Inverness while working the NBC golf broadcast, which can be viewed on ESPN2 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday Friday, and on NBC from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
"I've been fortunate to play here at Inverness a number of times," said Koch, who will work as an analyst during coverage. "I played the U.S. Amateur here in 1973, the PGA in 1986, and I know Judd Silverman (Toledo Classic Inc. director) quite well.
"I've always thought of it as being a very straightforward golf course. In other words, you can certainly see where you want to go and where you don't want to go."
Rolfing, who walked the Inverness greens as a course reporter during the 2003 Senior Open, believes the winner of this year's U.S. Senior Open will have earned the championship.
Inverness is not exactly a forgiving place for wayward golf play.
"The one thing about Inverness is you cannot scrape it around out here," said Rolfing, who is working as a tower reporter. "The best player is going to be identified by the end of the week, and I think that's the most important thing in a course."
Koch and Rolfing, along with NBC's lead golf announcer Dan Hicks and course reporters Roger Maltbie and Dottie Pepper, will have 14 hours of air time to cover one of the game's most-prized championships.
Inverness is one of the original courses where U.S. golf got its start, and holding the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club only heightens the significance, Rolfing said.
"I think here the golf course, maybe as a percentage, is a bigger story than it would be in other places," he said. "Here, you have history and a lot of other elements that you don't always have when you go to U.S. Senior Open courses.
"A lot of them [golf tournaments] now are going to newer venues that don't have the history of an Inverness. You also have here an enthusiasm from the people that is different because it's Toledo and they're embracing this championship."
Rolfing likes Loren Roberts as a possible favorite heading into the U.S. Senior Open, while Koch believes a handful of golfers, including Russ Cochran, John Cook, Jeff Sluman, and Tom Lehman, could end up as the champion.
Steadiness on the greens may end up as the determining factor, Koch said, who has played in five Champions Tour events this year.
"I think if somebody could somehow manage to shoot a couple under par each day, by the end of the week that's going to be a very good score," Koch said.
Players involved in the Champions Tour are 50 years and older. While it doesn't involve the top golfers regularly on the PGA Tour, coverage of the U.S. Senior Open is handled by NBC the same way it would approach covering the U.S. Open.
That coverage includes analysts and reporters possibly making critical comments about golfers during the tournament.
"We're paid for our opinion for what we think, and hopefully you're going to get the same no matter what event we're doing," Koch said.
Yet, commentary during a major like the U.S. Senior Open is typically kept to a minimum.
"I think probably the biggest difference for us in a U.S. Open or a U.S. Senior Open, you want to talk less," Rolfing said. "You want to give the action more room to breathe. You want to let the drama build. I think the sense of the buildup of the excitement is more important than what I might have to say about a particular player.
"So, I think in a U.S. Open or a U.S. Senior Open, less from the announcers is better than more."
Performance tells all.
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