- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002


OWINGS MILLS, Md. Practice didn't make perfect for Hale Irwin this week at the U.S. Senior Open. Actually, it just made for a letdown.
Irwin, a two-time Senior Open champion, shot a 7-under 64 at the Caves Valley Golf Club in a practice round last week. It was his first tour of the course.
But if that throwaway round stirred any visions of a return to the winner's circle, they never materialized. Irwin finished the tournament tied for 11th at even par.
"I played very, very well that day, but I was just sort of freewheeling everything," he said.
"It's a learning curve. When you're just learning a course, you don't know where the hazards are, and you play a lot more aggressively and offensively."
During the tournament, Irwin was at 5 over after 36 holes. He carded a much-improved 69 on Saturday and, after a practice session to correct his timing, fired an even better 68 yesterday.
But there was little consolation in that. Irwin, who needed 31 putts to complete his final round, was left wishing he hadn't left so much on the greens.
"To hit 16 greens and only shoot 3-under par is really disappointing," he said.

Kite not himself
Tom Kite was a looming presence on the leader board all weekend but never could make a serious run at the top spot. Every time he seemed on the verge of jump-starting his round, he stalled.
An unpredictable driver was the biggest culprit, mostly on Saturday. In that round, Kite was 7 under for the tournament after 13 holes but had two bogeys and a double bogey in his last five holes.
"I wasn't sharp the other three days, but Saturday was terrible," Kite said. "I really was not able to have any feel for my swing at all on that day. That's not typical Tom Kite golf."
Still, Kite almost had a chance to sneak back into prime contention yesterday. A birdie on No.4 tied him with Tom Watson for second place at 6 under with plenty of holes left to challenge Don Pooley. But Kite bogeyed No.7 and, after getting back to 7 under on 13, a downhill putt for birdie on 14 drifted off line. The miss cost him a chance to pull within two shots of Pooley. He bogeyed 15 and never threatened again.
"I hit that putt as good as I've ever hit a putt in my life," Kite said.
"And then I hit a good comeback putt on 15, and those two putts right there could have put me in the playoff, for sure."

This man deserves a vacation
Bob Clark already has his ticket punched to next year's Senior Open. The realty owner from Murrieta, Calif., will receive an exemption to the 2003 championship after finishing as the low amateur at Caves Valley this week.
Clark shot a 77 yesterday to finish at 15-over 299. His best round came Saturday, when he shot 70.
Clark's main rival this week was defending top amateur Paul Simson, who opened with a 70 on Thursday. But just like his playing partner that day, 18-hole leader R.W. Eaks, Simson cooled off considerably, finishing at 303.
This was Clark's fourth Open. He missed the cut in his previous three.
"This [course] is a monster," he said. "This is so long. And to tell you the truth, you don't know if you can shoot 70. But somehow I managed to get it in. I made the cut, and that's a dream. That's a dream."
For his next stop, Clark plans to mix a little business with pleasure. He'll play in a pro-am tournament this week in Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
"I don't need another week of golf right now I'm golfed out," he said. "But this one's for my kids and my wife. We're going to have fun and relax."

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