Length a major issue for seasoned players

CARMEL, Ind. --- Fuzzy Zoeller recites his winning philosophy like it's on speed dial.


Or perhaps he just remembers Crooked Stick's history.

The 1979 Masters Tournament winner contends it will take someone who can hit long, accurate drives and repeatedly find the proper placements on these sloping greens to win this year's U.S. Senior Open title. Someone like John Daly, who zoomed into the spotlight with his grip-it-and-rip-it strategy at the 1991 PGA Championship here. Someone like big-hitting 17-year-old Maria Uribe, who won the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur here.

Now, the senior tour is looking to add another chapter on the longest course in Senior Open history at 7,316 yards.

"The only thing that scared me was when (course designer) Pete Dye got up and said he had stretched the golf course out to 7,306 or something," Zoeller said. "I had to speak right after him and I said, 'Oh, Pete, Pete, you're losing the fact that we're over 50 years old. We're trying to bring it back to us so we can have some fun.' "

The USGA didn't do Zoeller and the other 155 players expected to start today's first round any favors like shortening the course. It could be argued that it wouldn't have been necessary, especially after 59-year-old Tom Watson nearly beat the youngsters at the British Open two weeks ago.

The bad news: 7,316 yards could be the short end.

With forecasters calling for rain this afternoon, weather could make the course play longer. Zoeller noted his second practice round Tuesday, in warmer conditions than Monday, seemed to shorten things up a bit.

Who will contend?

Eduardo Romero, of Argentina, the defending champ, survived a tough back nine last year and returns with more knowledge about coping with nerves. He is seventh on the tour with an average drive of 288.4 yards.

Watson could be there, too. He is playing his best golf in more than a decade and comes to Carmel as the sentimental favorite, if not the overall favorite, after missing an eight-foot putt on No. 18 for the win at Turnberry two weeks ago. He lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink, then rallied to finish in the top 10 last weekend at the Senior British Open.

As he prepares for his third major in three weeks, Watson made an adjustment to his short game that he hopes will help claim his first Senior Open title. But Watson also is dealing with an illness that forced him to skip Tuesday's practice round.

Among the other big names in the field are two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer and two-time British Open winner Greg Norman.



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