SAMAMMISH - Fred Couples and Tom Watson both shot even-par rounds of 70 while playing together Thursday morning in the first round of the U.S. Senior Open, and their reactions couldn't have been much different.
Couples was relieved. Watson was upset.
Saying “I just don’t feel good,” Couples started his round with a bogey and found himself 3-over par after 12 holes before salvaging his round with three consecutive birdies.
Watson was 3-under par after 12 holes before jet lag from a brutal travel schedule caught up with him and he bogeyed half of the remaining holes.
“Would you have thought Tom and I would have shot the same score? Wow,” Couples said. “He was awesome. And he didn’t get many breaks. I was very mediocre and made a couple of great up-and-downs.”
Watson missed a short putt on the final hole – hole No. 9 – and was visibly upset after his round. The usually charming 60-year-old tersely answered questions in a 2-minute press briefing.
“I wore out,” Watson said. “The time change got me, and I’m half asleep.”
Watson, who played the British Open and Senior British Open the past two weeks in Scotland, said he woke up at 1 a.m. Thursday and could not get back to sleep.
He started feeling sleepy midway through the back nine and couldn’t recover the focus he had on the front nine when it looked as if he was going to take control of the tournament.
“The way Tom played, that was really fun to watch,” Couples said. “He never missed a shot.”
Couples, who said his back was stiff during the round, missed several shots.
“I was very, very mediocre,” Couples said.
At one point, Couples said he was thinking, “If I make a couple more bogeys I’m going to shoot 75.” But the course was so challenging that he soon started thinking, “Seventy-five. That wouldn’t be that bad.”
Couples and Watson tee off at 1 p.m. today, giving Watson plenty of time to catch up on his sleep, Couples another chance find a groove, and both a chance to charge up the leaderboard.
“I think the score I shot is phenomenal,” Couples said. “I would have taken 70 before the round started.”
Only eight golfers have played better rounds at Sahalee than the one Bruce Vaughan turned in Thursday morning to grab the first-round lead.
He was one stroke off the par-70 course record of 65 shared by Nick Price and Greg Kraft at the 1998 PGA Championship.
The par-71 record was set by Robert Allenby in the second round of the NEC tournament in 2002 when he shot a 63. Five other golfers – including Retief Goosen and David Duval – also shot 65s during that tournament. Winner Craig Parry did it twice.
South Smith, a pro from Scottsdale, Ariz., withdrew after 10 holes with a back injury. … Jerry Johnson of Ocean Shores shot an 11-over-par 81.… Spokane’s Gary Lindeblad and amateur Kevin Klier were 19- and 12-over par respectively. ... Amateur Tom Brandes of Bellevue was also 12-over par.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 Craig.firstname.lastname@example.org