U.S. Senior Open: Scene and Heard around Oak Tree National

Wednesday’s rain shouldn’t affect play at the tournament, which begins Thursday.
by Jenni Carlson and Michael Baldwin Published: July 9, 2014

Rain showers soften greens and entice professional golfers to fire at pins, producing lower scores, but USGA and Oak Tree National officials don’t anticipate Wednesday morning’s rain showers will dramatically lower first-round scores Thursday at the U.S. Senior Open.

Oak Tree received slightly less than one inch of rain (.91), much less than parts of the Oklahoma City metro area which received more than three inches.

“There’s a natural area for water to drain off east to west down the middle of the course where the creek runs through it,” said Oak Tree co-owner Everett Dobson. “With the sun coming out (Wednesday), it was drying up well by the end of the day.

“It’s supposed to get hot and windy for the weekend, so everyone will have forgotten about the rain we had on Wednesday, I promise you.”

Jeff Hall, the USGA’s managing director for rules, is in charge of setting up the course. He’s maintained for several months that the USGA’s philosophy is firm and fast.

“We think the firmness will come back,” Hall said. “This golf course (already) was drying down very nicely (by the end of the day). We want firm and fast because we want players to have to think about what the golf ball is going to do when it gets on the ground.”

Oak Tree superintendent Josh Cook said the rain actually was a blessing after ideal weather the three months leading up to the tournament has produced a lush, green course Champions Tour players have raved about.

“We’ve been so dry and hot the past week I don’t think anyone will even notice we had some rain (Wednesday),” Cook said. “This is a course that wants to play fast, and it will play fast, which is why it’s a great place to host a championship.”

The biggest effect of Wednesday’s storms was likely seen by fans. Rain left parking areas on empty prairie fields muddy and squishy early in the day.

“The golf course is absolutely magnificent,” said USGA vice president Dan Burton. “The greens are just about perfect. We got a little rain, but they’ll be fine. Everything is ready to go.”

*

WEATHER FORECAST

After Wednesday morning’s rain, everyone will be watching the skies with Thursday’s opening round. What will they see? According to the National Weather Service, there is a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms overnight, but then, the day is expected to be mostly sunny with a high near 95 and heat indexes as high as 98. The wind will blow out of the south, but it won’t be as big a factor as it could be by the time the weekend is out. It is expected to blow 8 to 15 mph with gusts as high as 21 mph.

BEST PLACE TO WATCH

With temperatures expected to approach the mid-90s on Thursday, No. 4 is surrounded by several trees that will provide much-needed shade for fans. It’s also an interesting spot for spectators. Not only is the hole a 175-yard par 3 surrounded by water, but the location also gives fans a chance to watch players tee off on No. 5, a 454-yard, par 4.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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