For Fred Gibson, yesterday felt like one of those days when you should've smashed the alarm clock, rolled over and gone back to bed.
Midway through Gibson's second 18 holes at the U.S. Senior Open, peaceful slumber must have seemed like the furthest thing from reality, as much of a pipe dream as a birdie on his scorecard.
To start off, Gibson, who shot a 2-under-par 69 in the first round, wasn't feeling well. He'd been fighting off a respiratory infection for nearly a month. Gibson said the illness caused him to falter out of the gate, since he started on the more physically demanding Caves Valley Golf Club back nine.
"Starting on the back is a little harder," said Gibson, who bogeyed two of his first five holes. "I've got fluid in my lungs, so I don't have full capacity. I three-putted No. 11 from like 10 feet because I couldn't get my composure."
Gibson's poise was tested further by equipment failure at the par-4 17th hole. His driver fell apart after he teed off on the second-longest hole in Senior Open history.
"I put the club down to lean on it to see if there was any noise, and the head fell off," he said. "I was lucky. If I would have made one more swing with the club, it could have killed me, flung off there and run up and hit me or hit someone in the crowd. It could have done anything."
Gibson was immediately shaken by the incident, but he scrambled to par the 17th. A backup driver was rushed to him by the time he teed off at 18. Gibson said he keeps a spare putter and driver in reserve for just such an occasion. USGA rules allow for a club to be replaced if it is broken during the normal course of play, not out of anger.
Gibson went on to bogey the 455-yard 18th, which left him 1-over for the tournament after a 3-over 38 on his opening nine.
Gibson made up for the lackluster play and outlasted his mental anguish on the more placid Caves Valley front nine. The former Frederick resident, who has a summer home in New Market, carded five birdies in his final nine holes to shoot 31 (2-under 69) and get himself to 4-under through two rounds and back into contention.
Gibson hit a 30-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole and nearly holed a bunker shot on the ninth to cap his cyclonic day.
"It was an exciting round. I've been putting and chipping well and my bunker game has been good," he said. "I'm probably as surprised as you are that I'm 4- under."
Palmer gives nod to fans
After a second-round 85 yesterday, a weary Arnold Palmer gave a little wave of the hand and a nod of the head to the gallery that roared for him next to the 18th green. The 72-year-old, eldest in the Open field, said if not for his loyal "Army," he might not have made it through the two long rounds at Caves Valley.
"The fans were wonderful," Palmer said. "If it hadn't been for the fans and just some of my own principles, I wouldn't even have finished. ... It's not been a lot of fun."
Palmer said he plans to hold to commitments to play in events in Park City, Utah; Boston; and Cincinnati, but that's it for the remainder of this year's tournament schedule.
Fleisher misses cut
Bruce Fleisher, who won last year's Senior Open in Peabody, Mass., missed the cut at this year's Open after rounds of 76-75.
"It's very difficult to smile at this point in time," Fleisher said. "I played miserably. There's not a whole lot more I can say about it."
Fleisher, who tied for fifth at last week's Greater Baltimore Classic, said playing 17 tournaments since late February has worn on him.
"I played a lot of golf, and it's to my choosing. It caught up with me," he said. "I was tired, but I think playing lousy makes you even more tired."
Fleisher will now go home to Florida, where he'll undergo tests next week to determine if he has prostate cancer. A screening two weeks ago in Nashville, Tenn., indicated the 53-year-old had early signs of the disease.
Mike McCullough (undisclosed) and Rob Schaal (back) withdrew from the tournament yesterday morning. ... George Allen shot 5-over 76 yesterday. That was 20 shots better than the 25-over 96 the pro from Southern California carded in the first round at Caves. ... Maryland amateurs George Washburn (84-77-161) and David Rasley (75-83-158) both missed the cut.