Cochran comes up short even after a solid effort

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Similar to the weather Sunday, Russ Cochran never got his chance to shine.

It wasn't that he didn't play four spectacular rounds at the Constellation Senior Players Championship; it was more that the play of eventual champion Bernhard Langer and runner-up Jeff Sluman narrowly stole the show -- and the trophy.

"You know what, it was a strange day for me," Cochran said. "I just didn't feel very comfortable with the short putts and I think these greens, you know, you saw a lot of missed putts out there. They're very tough and on a lot of slopes out there.

"I felt like I kind of yipped a couple putts on the front and it's kind of real down-and-out. I started playing a little better. I made a bomb over there on 13, so that kind of turned things around a little bit for me and gave me a little hope. ... I thought, 'Hey, I might run the tables and get hot and do something good.' "

Even while looking up the leader board the entire weekend, Cochran played a tournament that would have been good enough to walk away with hardware in most other instances.

This Paducah, Ky., native stood alone in third place when it was all said and done thanks to a 3-under 67 in the final round to put him at 14 under for the tournament.

A victory for Cochran would have been one of the more improbable victories that could have happened. He sat tied for 40th after he shot an even-par 70 in the opening round. That was soon bumped up to tied for 20th after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

But it was his third round of 63 that put him in position to make a run at the title.

Cochran, 56, came to within one stroke of pulling off the comeback and joining Langer and eventual champion Jeff Sluman in a playoff.

Cochran was at this best with hitting the greens after tying for second with 64 of 72 greens hit for a solid 88.9 percent conversion rate.

He also was helped by his putting and fairway play. With heavy rains that made it hard to tell whether the match was played at Fox Chapel Golf Club or Rio de Janiero, it was imperative to stay out of the rough.

Hitting 46 of 52 fairways and ranking fourth in putts per green in regulation helped him in that regard to birdie Nos. 13, 14 and 16 coming down the stretch in his pursuit of Langer and Sluman. Even though he fell just short, he had a unique outlook on his play.

"I'm not disappointed," Cochran said. "Here's the thing with me, you know, I'm a momentum player and a confidence player, and I don't have a lot of confidence now, and I haven't have that great of a year, but I'm building on it. ...

"I can feel my game coming around a little bit, but the nuances of being in that last group and standing over those 6-, 8-, 10-footers on a very tricky set of greens are not very good. So, I think it was nice to come back. You're always disappointed when you get that close, but it's at least nice to kind of get things going back in the right direction."

Regardless, the only one that matters is how many strokes were taken, and Sluman didn't disappoint in the bogey category after only exceeding par three times in the final two rounds.

RJ Schaffer: rschaffer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rjschaffer


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