Back 9: O’Meara Shoots 66 at InvernessWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Mark O’Meara was not happy with his game during the two weeks he spent playing in Europe prior to coming to the U. S. Senior Open at Inverness. After the British Senior Open on Sunday he flew directly to his home in Houston, worked on his game with instructor Bruce Davidson the morning of July 27 and didn’t arrive in Toledo until that evening. He played only one practice round on July 28 but came out firing on all cylinders in his first round on Thursday. Both he and co-leader Michael Allen fired a 5-under 66.
O’Meara hit a great second shot onto the first green but missed an eight-foot putt for birdie. He proceeded to sink a seven-foot putt on the second hole, a nine-foot putt on the third and then two-putted from the fringe for birdie on the par-5 fourth hole. He made par on the rest of the front nine and turned in 34 (-3).
O’Meara hit his three wood off both the 10th and 11th tees. He hit his nine iron approach to eight feet on hole 10 and made the putt. He hit an eight iron to eight feet on hole 11 and made that putt to get to five-under par. He managed to make pars with two career up and downs at the 16th and 17th to keep his round alive and get to the house with a very tidy 66.
Holes 13-16 at Inverness are the toughest stretch of golfing real estate in the world. Hole 13 is a 460 yard par-4 with an elevated undulating green. Hole 14 is a 445 yard par-4. Hole 15 is the longest par-3 on the course at 228 yards to a bunker-guarded green. A creek meanders along the right side of the diabolical 16th fairway, a monstrous 476 yard par-4 requiring a long iron or rescue club second shot into a postage-stamp size elevated green. Even par through this stretch of holes will gain a minimum of one shot on the field and probably two or three shots.
It will be imperative for anyone wanting to make a move on Sunday to get the job done early and hold on through the back nine. The winner here this week will make his birdies on the first 12 holes and hang on through 13-16. The 17th and 18th holes can be birdied with accurate tee shots that set up short iron approaches into the greens.