STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Retief Goosen got right to the point after the first round of the U.S. Senior Open at punishing SentryWorld.
“You got to hit the fairways, otherwise, you’ve got no shot,” the two-time U.S. Open champion said Thursday after a 1-under 70 that left him tied for second, two strokes behind Rod Pampling.
Defending champion Steve Stricker — from Madison, about 100 miles to the south — had two double bogeys in a 72 that ended his PGA Tour Champions record for consecutive rounds of par or better at 55.
“It’s a challenging place, but I hung in there,” Stricker said. “One over is not a bad score. I just need a good one tomorrow.”
Playing in the morning on the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course with deep, thick rough, Pampling had seven birdies, a double bogey and two bogeys in a 68. The average score was 77.32.
The rough kind of lays back into you, so you really can’t get the club on the ball.” Pampling said. “It’s quite difficult to judge. Hopefully, won’t be doing that too many times.”
The 53-year-old Australian has one Champions victory — the 2021 Boeing Classic — after winning three times on the PGA Tour.
Goosen, the 54-year-old South African who won the U.S. Open in 2001 and 2004, had five birdies and four bogeys in his afternoon round.
“The rough here is like a normal U.S. Open,” Goosen said. “The three lies I had, there was no chance I’d even get near the green. Even on No. 8, I was 90 yards from the front edge. I hit a sand wedge as hard as I could, and it probably carried 40.”
“It’s fair. It’s good,” Jimenez said. “The ball is nice, they are holding good and fairways also holding well. It’s very good test.”
The 57-year-old Small, Stricker’s former Illini teammate, had six birdies, three bogeys and a closing double bogey.
“I’ve learned not to take this too seriously,” Small said. “It’s not the end of the world for me anymore. It’s not like I need to keep a card on any tour anymore or anything.”
Bernhard Langer, the 65-year-old Champions career victory leader, was at 71 with Ernie Els, David Toms, Jerry Kelly, Jeff Maggert, Bob Sowards, James Kingston, Richard Green, Adilson da Silva and Ken Tanigawa. Langer stayed out of the rough.
“Thank goodness I wasn’t in it,” Langer said. “I can’t talk much about it, but I tried to hit a few shots in the practice rounds and it’s very punishing.”
Kelly also is from Madison.
“I’m really happy the way I battled,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t feeling the best. I usually don’t chew on Advil, but I had to today.”
Defending champion Padraig Harrington opened with a 74. Coming off a victory Sunday in the Champions event in New York, the Irishman had three birdies, a double bogey and four bogeys.
“Doesn’t your mother always tell you you’re going to have days like this, really a struggle to focus,” said Harrington, the winner last year at Saucon Valley in Pennsylvania.
Stricker, the 2019 winner at Notre Dame in Indiana, won the first two senior majors of the year and took the American Family Insurance Championship three weeks ago in Madison for his fourth victory of the season. He had the double bogeys on the par-5 10th and par-3 12th.
“Up against a tree in a divot and buried lie in the bunker,” Stricker said. “That didn’t sit well with me, and it kind of affected probably the next couple of holes. Then, hit a poor shot at 12, and that was kind of a wakeup call to get my head back in the game.”
Trip Kuehne, playing his first USGA championship since winning the 2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur, topped the 23 amateurs at 75.