SAMMAMISH, Wash. - The big names have landed at Sahalee for the U.S. Senior Open. Watson, Couples, Kite, Irwin, Langer, Jacobsen and company are all on hand.
So far there has been nothing but praise for the set-up of the course, the management of the event and the response of the fans.
A relaxed and playful Hale Irwin talked about the salient design element of the course - the trees.
“I think maybe they went a little overboard on the trees,” he said with a smile, then admitted that since the trees provide a constant visual framework for shots, he has to take into account how his brain translates those images. It can draw the eyes to the center between the edges of the fairway and make distances hard to calculate. “That’s an adjustment we’ll have to make," he says.
Fred Couples held a clinic for kids today, part of his cheerful duties as honorary Tournament Chairman. We’ll be running a story on Couples tonight on the news and Northwest Sports Tonight. We talked to a bunch of people who knew and played with and against Freddie back in the day.
“I have known him since he was 13,” says longtime pro Jeff Coston. “Some people seem to be sprinkled with greatness.”
Fuzzy (Frederick Urban) Zoeller is out walking the fairways, hitting shots with accustomed ease and aplomb and dazzling the crowds with affability and casual charm.
He clearly just loves this stuff. He's a showman, somebody who clearly understands this game they play is a game and the people who come out to watch, especially in practice rounds, have paid for the privilege. I have seen him autograph hats, flags, t-shirts, soccer balls and programs.
He marveled at Sahalee's trees -- all the first-timers do. He says this is his first day ever at this course and he likes what he sees. Interestingly, he echoed Hale Irwin's comments that the corridor-like fairways play tricks on your vision and can mess with depth perception, which is of course critical when gauging distance and picking clubs.
I also checked in with some of our local qualifiers. Jerry Johnson says he's hitting his drives really well, finding the rough only a few times, but the putts aren't dropping yet. As if Jerry doesn't have enough pressure, he will hit the first ball off the first tee on the first day of the tournament. He admits he's nervous. But he also says "Hey, I've shot four rounds in the sixties on good courses before, maybe I can do it here."
Tom Brandes, the pure amateur who won his way in to the Open in the qualifier at Semiahmoo a few weeks ago, also says he's hitting the ball really well. I watched him put one about 20 feet from the pin at the 205 yard, Par 3 ninth. He received a smattering of applause from the crowd.
If you have any great stories from the past about Seattle-native Fred Couples, feel free to leave a comment below.