Oak Tree’s Scott Verplank will make his Champions Tour debut at the U.S. Senior Open. Verplank turns 50 the day before the tournament begins. Having battled injuries much of his career, Verplank hopes to be in contention on his home course.
“I’m really looking forward to playing here,” Verplank said following his practice round on Monday. “This is going to be awesome. The golf course is in such great shape.”
Verplank fired a 68 in the second round last week at the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Spring, W.Va., but he missed the cut due to a first-round 75.
“I was fine. I played OK the second round, but I still need to play better,” Verplank said. “Fortunately I’m going the right direction. I’m close. I’ve just got to go out and do it.”
LEHMAN NOT INTO PRACTICE ROUNDS
Tom Lehman, an eight-time winner on the Champions Tour, didn’t take part in a Monday practice round.
Instead, he came to Oak Tree seven days ago in preparation, preferring to skip the madness of golfers and fans that took over Oak Tree on Monday.
“I wanted to come early to get a peek at it before everyone descends on it,” Lehman said. “Practice rounds are a zoo, so it’s nice to get some work done on it ahead of time.”
Rather than playing the course, Lehman and a friend walked Oak Tree National and scouted out every inch of the course.
“A lot of times when you play the course, you end up getting more concerned about your swing and you end up trying to hit solid shots and you forget about charting the course and understanding the course,” he said. “To leave the clubs in the car and just walk I think is a good way to prepare.”
Gil Morgan doesn’t expect to win the U.S. Senior Open.
“That would be pretty phenomenal, but probably out of the question,” he said.
He does, however, have a few picks of his own. At the top of his list: Vijay Singh, Kenny Perry, Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer.
That’s not too much of a surprise, seeing as Langer is leading the Champions Tour Charles Schwab Cup after three wins this year, and Montgomerie and Perry are right behind in third and fourth. Langer is coming off a win at the Constellation Senior Players Championship.
Singh, a former world No. 1 golfer, made his debut on the Champions Tour in September.
METICULOUS LANGER RELEARNING OAK TREE
It was a long, hot day for Langer, and he only played nine holes.
Langer spent part of the morning on the practice green and driving range before his noon tee time.
He played the front nine in just under three hours, focusing extra time on the greens and making notes in his yardage book.
Very detailed about his preparation for the course he’s playing, Langer said he’ll keep the same routine for Tuesday and Wednesday, playing nine holes each day leading up to the first round.
Langer has been to Oak Tree before, though he couldn’t tell you anything about his visit for the 1988 PGA Championship.
“I know I was here 26 years ago, but I haven’t remembered one hole yet,” Langer said. “You just have to familiarize yourself with the course. We all do it out here, some more meticulous than others.”
Where would Langer rate himself on the scale of most meticulous to least?
“Pretty high I think,” he said with a smile. “It’s my personality. I want to be prepared and I expect a lot from myself. If I’m not prepared, I shouldn’t expect anything.”
OAK TREE HOSTS MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY
Tuesday will be Military Appreciation Day at the U.S. Senior Open.
Current and former military members and their families can receive free admission to Tuesday’s practice round with valid identification.
Military personnel can secure tickets at the admissions gate.
The day begins at 7 a.m. with the presentation of colors from the Governor’s Honor Guard at the first tee. Throughout the day, members of military branches will announce the players teeing off on the first and 10th holes and will tend flagsticks at the ninth and 18th greens.
COMBS WEARING HIS COLORS
Dressed in a bright orange shirt and hat, former Oklahoma State and professional basketball player Leroy Combs was on the course in full support of his former OSU classmates Monday.
Combs played for the Cowboys from 1979-83, crossing paths with golfers like Verplank, Willie Wood and Bob Tway, all of whom are in the field at this week’s tournament.
Combs spent several years as a high school basketball coach around Oklahoma City and is still working as an elementary school teacher. He has been out of coaching for a couple of seasons and hopes to return in the near future.
But Monday was about supporting his fellow Cowboys, and maybe picking up a tip or two to help him with his regular weekend foursome.
“He’s just rolling those 4-footers in,” Combs said as he watched a player working on the practice green Monday. “I’m gonna have to use that drill.”