Scott Dunlap entered Saturday thinking he would be nervous, expecting to have a bad start.
He was right.
Dunlap birdied two of his first three holes
“What had me nervous?” Dunlap said. “U.S. Senior Open, third day, last group. I have been somewhat in that position, but it's been a long time, like maybe 2000 with Tiger at a PGA.”
In the 2000 PGA Championship, Dunlap finished the third round at 12-under, one stroke behind Tiger Woods.
Woods won the tournament at 18-under, and Dunlap faded to 9-under and ninth place.
However, Dunlap overcame his bad start Saturday at Oak Tree National by hitting three birdies to counter additional bogeys on No. 9 and 15. He is tied with Bernhard Langer for second place at 4-under, three strokes behind Gene Sauers, and the nerves will continue another day.
“It's just nature,” Dunlap said. “A lot of guys won't own up to it, but when you watch them shoot 75 and don't look like the same guy two days ago, it wasn't just a calendar flip.”
DAWSON BOUNCES AROUND LEADERBOARD
On Thursday, Marco Dawson shot 5-under 66 at Oak Tree National, and he said it might have been the round of his life.
Friday, he followed that with a 5-over 76.
Dawson started fairly consistent, sitting at 1-over through six holes. Then, he started hitting fairways and got hot with the putter. He birdied six of his next nine holes to move to 5-under and what was then a three-way tie for the lead.
But as Dawson has discovered this week, it’s not that easy. He bogeyed 16, 17, and 18 to finish at 2-under overall and tied for fifth.
“I hate to say it, but I think there is some luck involved where the bounces are,” Dawson said.
ROCCO AND TIGER
Rocco Mediate has heard the question over and over. Friday, he heard it once more.
It was about Mediate’s playoff loss to Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open. Mediate, who is 2-over par in the U.S. Senior Open, was the last golfer to truly go toe-to-toe with Woods in top form.
“I don't like to think about it myself that often,” Mediate said. “You know, that's been six years, believe it or not. Isn't that amazing? Feels like it was a week ago. I don't really pay much attention to it. People always ask. That's fine. I never get mad. I always say I lost. What do you think about the Open in '08? I lost.”
As for Woods’ chances in next week’s Open Championship, Mediate said he hopes Woods is able to change his swing and contend in another major.
“He's got to fix his golf swing,” Mediate said. “I have said it before, I will say it again. That's what caused his injuries and it will cause it again if it doesn't change. I have been through it. I know exactly what I'm talking about in that situation.
“Don't know much about anything else, but I do know about that. I hope he does, because we need him back where he belongs, period.”
SHORT JR. FIGHTS THROUGH PAIN
Wes Short Jr. began Saturday among the contenders, but the fact that he even finished the round was remarkable.
A muscle issue in his lower back that also affected his hip and leg began to cause visible pain before he finished his first nine holes. Cameras showed him laying on the ground being stretched.
Short still managed to finish the round, limping all the way through, with a 76 to stay in the top 20.
“I was just hoping I could get to the 18th and maybe get some help,” he said. “Maybe I could stay in contention. I wanted to try to finish.
“They didn't think I could damage it any further so I just continued to play.”
LOW AMATEUR RACE
Only two of the 16 amateurs in the field made the cut. Both have solid resumes.
Mike McCoy, a 51-year-old insurance agent from Des Moines, Iowa, is the defending U.S. Mid-American champion, an 11-time Iowa amateur Player of the Year who played in this year’s Masters.
Jeff Wilson, from Fairfield, Calif., is a three-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and was the low amateur at the 2000 U.S. Open. Heading into Sunday’s final round, Wilson owns a 1-stroke lead for low amateur.
“We were paired together the last two days about a week ago in a tournament in Los Angeles,” McCoy said. “We’ve played a lot of golf together. He’s a great guy, good friend. I’m sure we’ll both be trying hard (to go lower).”
NO LUCK FOR LONGHORNS
Both former college All-Americans at the University of Texas, and Mark Brooks and Lance Ten Broeck paired together on Saturday.
But there were no celebratory “Hook ’Em” signs in the air, with both players struggling.
Both players began the day under par but played their way out of the top 10. Brooks shot 76 and Ten Broeck shot 79.
“Longhorns don’t do too well in Oklahoma,” Ten Broeck said, looking down at his orange shirt. “I don’t think I’ll ever wear this shirt again, that’s for sure.”
SENIOR OPEN TROPHY’S NAMESAKE
The winner of the U.S. Senior Open wins the Francis Ouimet trophy, named after the legendary golfer who won the U.S. Open in 1913 at age 20. Growing up in a poor family in the Boston area, Ouimet was a caddy at age 11 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
Often referred to as the “father of amateur golf,” Ouimet self-taught himself how to play golf growing up in a poor family in the Boston area. Inducted into the Hall of Fame 25 years ago, Ouimet was the first player to gain national recognition in a sport that was usually played by the wealthy 100 years ago.