Fleisher has that hungry look: 69

July 01, 2000|By Sam Borden | Sam Borden,SUN STAFF

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - On Thursday, Bruce Fleisher tied a course record with a 64 and was nothing but a side dish, garnishing Jack Nicklaus' historical feast of a 67. But during yesterday's second round at the U.S. Senior Open, Fleisher's 69 was nothing short of the appetizer, main course and dessert.

Don't assume, however, that the 36-hole leader's day was a sumptuous one. The butterflies dancing in his stomach yesterday morning left no room for breakfast before his second trip around Saucon Valley Country Club, leaving Fleisher to subsist on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich his wife, Wendy, prepared for him.

It all caught up to him after the round, though, where he closely eyed a hot dog loaded with sauerkraut as he addressed the media.

"I'm just a growing boy, what can I tell you?" said the 51-year old veteran of his intense hunger pangs. Fleisher began his day by spending 20 minutes in line at a local donut shop in search of a caffeine kick-start, something he's done four times already this week.

"I didn't want to wait in line, but I waited, because I really wanted that cup of coffee," he said, and it's a good thing he did. The java paid immediate dividends for him as he birdied the second and third holes right out of the gate.

After a three-putt bogey on the par-4 fifth, he responded with a wedge to six feet on No. 6. The subsequent birdie was his last of the day, but 12 pars later he sat in the clubhouse at 9-under 133, reasonably confident that he had succeeded on a day that was significantly tougher than the previous.

"On a scale of one to 10, about eight," said Fleisher, when asked to compare the difficulty of yesterday's hole locations to Thursday's. "It seemed like the pins were on these shelves [yesterday]. These courses are not set up for birdies. If you happen to get a birdie, it's a real plus. Par is a good score."

But while they were acceptable to Fleisher, pars simply were not good enough for Jim Thorpe. Thorpe blasted the back nine at Saucon Valley for five birdies, hopping from a tie for 13th at the start of the second round to sole possession of second place by day's end.

Thorpe's prolific finish to his 65 was capped by birdies on the 10th, 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes, no small accomplishment on a day on which scores hovered around par.

"Maybe if I can stop in Fleisher's hotel tonight and beat him up a little bit ... " joked Thorpe, who did some beating of his own with a back-nine 30, tying a Senior Open record held by five other players. "It all boils down to the putter. I think today I had 24 or 25 putts [he had 25], where if I had 31 or 32 ... then I wouldn't be sitting here."

But even with the red-hot Thorpe breathing down his neck, Fleisher is trying not to worry about those behind him, trying not to look in his rear-view mirror. He is calm and collected on the course, a trait he attributes to his attempts to avoid being distracted by the friends who have come out to support him this week.

"I have no control of [other players'] games," said Fleisher, who has won 10 times in just 1 1/2 years on the Senior Tour. "I'm just going to try to be the best Bruce Fleisher can be."

But first things first. For this particular famished pro, a hot dog awaited - and after 18 holes on a relatively empty stomach, Fleisher didn't care if it was appropriate noon-time fare or not.

"Hey, the lunch of champions!" Hale Irwin exclaimed as he watched the leader exit the interview area.

Fleisher, for one, sure hoped so.

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