Fans tell Pooley thanks for the memories

Many recall victory vs. Watson in playoff at Caves Valley in '02

Senior Players Championship

October 06, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun reporter

Several times this week, Don Pooley has been stopped by fans at Baltimore Country Club watching the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. Many have thanked him for the thrills he gave them at nearby Caves Valley Golf Club during the 2002 U.S. Senior Open.

It was there that Pooley beat Hall of Famer Tom Watson in a five-hole playoff.

"I've had a lot of people stop me and tell me what an unbelievable finish that was, the best tournament they ever saw, the best playoff they ever saw," Pooley said yesterday.

That he beat Watson was the biggest thrill for Pooley.

"That made it, having the greatest player of my era in the playoff," said Pooley, 56, who won another tournament in 2003 but has battled injuries since.

Pooley will try to re-create the feeling he had at Caves Valley this week. At 1-over-par 141 after a 3-under 67 yesterday, eight shots behind second-round leader Loren Roberts, Pooley knows that it will take a lot to get back into the hunt.

He recalled how he did that five years ago.

"I shot 63 on Saturday," Pooley said.

Problem surfaces

Curtis Strange had one of the most interesting shots of his career on the par-4 13th hole. It came after Strange drove through the right rough and onto what he thought was pine straw because he was in the shadow of a pine tree.

Except that the pine straw was not real, but a synthetic rubberized replica spread near the tree to cover up a patch of dirt.

"I can't imagine playing off anything else artificial," said Strange, who hit a decent approach that hit the green and spun off down the hill, leading to a double-bogey. "I don't quite understand why we have to play it from there."

As he got a rules interpretation before hitting the shot, Strange made a few jokes with the gallery, at one point saying, "It sounds like Rice Krispies."

But he was clearly not pleased with the fact that he was not allowed to take a free drop from what was essentially an artificial obstruction.

"It's basically rubbery stuff, so the ball just doesn't react at all like it would off pine straw," said Strange, who would shoot an even-par 70 and is also at 1-over. "If you put it on a stool or a man's shoe or a shirt or a towel, what's the difference?"

Strange said he would take it up with Champions Tour officials.

Tournament director Steve Schoenfeld said the club put out the fake straw for cosmetic reasons.

"We didn't do that. It's here all the time," Schoenfeld said. "I spoke to Brian Claar, a rules official, when he came for a site visit months ago and I picked it up and said, `What is that? He said it was pine straw. We didn't do that."

He laughed. "We would never do that," he said.

How many a crowd?

Though it certainly appeared the crowds picked up significantly yesterday from Thursday's opening round, there is no way to tell by how much because tournament officials declined to release attendance figures.

"To me, it is an inexact science," Schoenfeld said. "You announce a number and what does it really mean? I'm walking around and I see lots of crowds and people enjoying themselves. ... There were a lot more people, don't you think?"

Schoenfeld said the policy is similar to that of about a dozen other tournaments run by the Championship Policy Management Division of the PGA Tour, which also runs the Players Championship and the Presidents Cup.

Earlier start

Because of a forecast that includes the possibility of heavy morning fog today and tomorrow, the field will tee off on both the first and 10th tees from 9:15 to 11:15 a.m. Originally, tee times were from 7:20 to 11:15 a.m. on the first tee.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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