Plenty of drive is necessary at Fox Chapel Golf Club



Kenny Perry can't always explain the streaky nature of his game and how he manages to put together rounds such as he did a year ago at Fox Chapel Golf Club when he set the tournament's 54-hole scoring record.

At age 60 and riding a sizzling streak in which he has finished in the top five in eight of his past nine starts on the Champions Tour, Jay Haas can't explain how he can love the look of the Seth Raynor-designed layout at Fox Chapel and still manage to play so poorly.

But both players know this: If they or any of the 81 players in the field of the 32nd Constellation Senior Players Championship don't drive the ball in the fairway, they have little chance of making many birdies on the 6,696-yard layout that plays longer than it appears.

"This is a driver's golf course," Perry said. "The rough is very penal this year. If you hit it in the rough, you're not going to get it on the greens. And the guy who's going to win this week is going to have to drive the ball spectacular."

That's what Perry did a year ago when he won the Senior Players Championship and his first major title of any kind by shooting 63-63-64 in the final three rounds. Of course, he had some help from heavy rains that water-logged the course and allowed the players to lift, clean and place the ball in the fairway.

It is not known if the storm that dumped 1.1 inches of rain on the course over the previous 24 hours will cause the Champions Tour to invoke the same rule for the opening round today. But the players might need some assistance to combat the heavy, dense rough that is more prominent this year than for the first two years of the tournament at Fox Chapel.

"I don't see us shooting those kinds of scores this week," Perry said.

"It's substantial," Greensburg native Rocco Mediate said of the rough. "You've got to drive it, but there's plenty of room to drive it here. If you miss, you're going to pay. It will cost you because it's not playing short. Even though the yardage might say it's a short course, it's not playing short."

Bernhard Langer of Germany is the only player to win more than once this season on the Champions Tour and leads the Charles Schwab Cup standings with 1,552 points.

Despite not having a victory in nine starts, Haas might be the hottest player on tour. He leads all players in scoring average (67.80) and rounds in the 60s (24).

Haas has finished second once and third five times in his eight top-nine finishes in 2014. Since the Champions Tour began in 1980, only 21 players age 60 or older have won a tournament.

"The greens are difficult," said Haas, who did not play last week because he was attending his brother-in-law's wedding. "You have to put the ball in the correct spot in the fairway to get to the green, get access to the pins, things like that.

"I just never know when I take a week off or miss a week or two what's going to happen when I show up. It could be good, it could be bad. I'm anxious to see what happens."

He's also eager to see how he will perform at Fox Chapel after finishing tied for 20th in 2012 and tied for 27th a year ago.

"I love this golf course, but in two years I have not played well here so I'm anxious to see if I can turn that around this week," said Haas, who won the Senior Players Championship in 2009. "I don't know what it is, but every hole I get up and think I'm going to hit a pretty good shot and it just doesn't happen."

Langer had his streak of 21 consecutive top-10 finishes ended last week at the Encompass Championship in Chicago. Still, he is the only multiple champion on the tour in 2014, having won the season-opening Mitsubishi Championship and the Insperity Invitational.

Despite dominating the tour and becoming only the 10th player in Champions Tour history to win 20 times, Langer has just two senior major titles.

"It's a phenomenal test of golf, a very difficult golf course with the greens the way they are," said Langer, a two-time Masters champion. "They seemed pretty fast earlier this week and probably the rain might have slowed them down slightly. But I think the forecast looks good so hopefully things will dry out as it goes along."

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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