BETHESDA -- Larry Ringer showed the world he was not a one-day flash-in-the-pan golfer yesterday, as he displayed the same form, and almost the same score, in the third round of the U.S. Senior Open as he had in the first round.
An opening-day 68 had rocketed him to a share of the lead with Tom Weiskopf; a second-round 80 had brought him back to reality, and then he went out and proved to himself and everyone else that he really can play this game.
Two birdies and an eagle on the back nine got him to even par for the tournament, before a late bogey left him at 3-under-par 69 for the round, 1-over 217 for the tournament.
Ringer, experiencing his first go-round of Senior play after turning 50 in April, was quick to put the finger on reasons for his comeback.
"I had a good pairing [Denny Lyons, a veteran club professional from Niagara Falls, N.Y., CC], and he was comforting. He understood the dilemma that I had gone through yesterday [Friday]. Just talking with him a bit on the first tee -- that helped me a lot.
"Then, there was my Senior Series experience [no worse than tie-12th in three events]. To be honest, I had some awfully bad rounds with them, and just knowing I had the ability to come back was a help."
There wasn't as much pressure on an 80-shooter either. He had admitted he was so nervous Friday he could hardly see the ball. And, after the collapse, it was off to the driving range. "I thought my swing had left me. I was more disgusted with myself than anything.
"I'm stubborn, but [Saturday] morning, I realized I had the opportunity to get up and come out with a different attitude, knowing my face wasn't all over the papers; knowing I didn't have anything to lose.
"Again, I hit the ball terribly on the range and for the first five or six holes. I don't know whether it's that Senior Series experience or not, but I'm definitely trying to trust my swing."
It stood up for him, too, getting him in position to play 6-under par in a stretch of holes from the sixth to the 17th. That swing let him know it still wasn't quite right with drives in the rough at the last two holes.
In the hot streak, Ringer had four birdies on three putts in the 20-foot range and one five-footer. At No. 14 (432 yards uphill, par-4), "I stood on that tee and felt a little dizzy, then hit what was probably my best tee shot of the week."
On a hole that played particularly tough for three rounds, Ringer was left with 186 yards to the flag. "I hit the 5-wood shot up in the air and my caddy, Ron Wilson [a past president of the CC at Woodmore, where Ringer is the head professional], says, 'That could go in the hole.' And I said, 'Yeah, right.' "
The shot hit five feet short of the cup, took two hops and rolled into the hole.
At the par-4 17th, he came up short with his second shot from deep rough, pitched to 15 feet and missed the putt, then recovered from under a tree with a 6-iron shot that carried to within 10 yards of the 18th green, from where he got it up and down, converting a three-foot putt for a closing par.
His statistics for the three rounds: Thursday, he hit nine fairways, nine greens, and shot 68; Friday, seven fairways, nine greens, and shot 80; and yesterday, seven fairways, seven greens, and shot 69. That's more than enough character-building work for anyone.
bTC "What I did at 17 and 18 [drive in the rough], that's a swing breaking down. I get too quick, or something. So, if I can get over the nerves of that, I might shoot 68 again. Who knows?"
Ringer was one of 17 players to complete their rounds prior to the storm delay. At that point, he was tied for the lead with Mike McCulloch, who shot 68.