Sunday, August 02, 2009

CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Russ Cochran entered the U.S. Senior Open just trying to get his game together.

After breaking the course record at Crooked Stick on Saturday, he could finish near the top of the leaderboard.

Cochran had even-par 72s on Thursday and Friday to make the cut, then fired an 8-under 64 on Saturday. He was tied for sixth place at 8 under, five shots behind leader Fred Funk.

"I don't know where it came from, exactly," Cochran said. "I hit it well, but obviously made a bunch of putts to go with it."

The previous record was set Thursday, when Greg Norman, Joey Sindelar, Dan Forsman and amateur Tim Jackson shot 66s.

Cochran had nine birdies in what he called one of his best days as a golfer. On two occasions, he birdied three consecutive holes. The performance was shocking because the 50-year-old hadn't placed higher than 19th in his past five senior events.

"It definitely ranks up there as one of my better rounds."

Cochran said he thought he could improve his position over the weekend, but never considered contending.

"There might be a chance where I make a couple birdies and make up a little ground if I shoot a couple under par," he said, recalling his thoughts from earlier in the day. "To be honest with you, I didn't see this coming."

Cochran hadn't played much the previous five years, so his expectations were tempered.

"Coming back, I'd shown signs of some good play, but I hadn't followed through with them," he said. "It seemed like today, I got it rolling a little bit. Then it started looking good to me, and it seemed like the more I made, the more I relaxed."

Cochran said he'll need to take his carefree approach into Sunday.

"I went out and hit a driver on the first hole today, kind of out of character for me, jumped up there and said I'm going to be aggressive and I'm not going to back off any lines and see what happens," he said. "I didn't know the putter was going to cooperate so well, so that was an added bonus."

FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Norman said he's driving the ball as well as he has in years.

Norman was second place at 12 under heading into the final round on Sunday. He even had an eagle on 15 on Saturday after what he called a "beautiful drive."

He doesn't plan to make changes on Sunday.

"Keep hitting it to where I'm hitting," he said. "I'm driving the ball long and straight, and Freddy (Funk) made the comment that I'm driving the ball like I used to do it. And so it's a good feeling when you can get up on any tee and hit it the way you feel like you can hit it."

Norman had a little extra motivation for the third round. His wife, former tennis star Chris Evert, attended Saturday.

MOVING UP: Scott Simpson shot a 4-under 68 to move up to 8 under and a tie for sixth place.

"I played really well, drove in most of the fairways and hit a lot of good irons," he said. "Rolled the ball well, and no bogeys, which is always good."

It looked like he might end up higher. He got birdies on the second, fifth and eighth holes and was at 7 under heading into the back nine. After a birdie on 11, he got par on each of the remaining holes.

Simpson missed the early part of the season with a broken left wrist. That made Saturday's effort more satisfying.

"That was probably the best round I've played since I came back," he said.

Defending champion Eduardo Romero shot a 2-under 70 for the second straight day to move to 3 under. He struggled to a 73 on Thursday.

Olin Browne shot a 68 and jumped to 1 under, and Keith Fergus shot a 69 to improve to 2 under.

The worst round of the day came from Kevin Marion, who shot a 13-over 85. He was 62nd at 16 over.

OTHER AMATEURS: Jackson is the amateur who has received much of the attention this week, but another has quietly performed well.

Bryan Norton shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday for a 1-under total.

Norton, who barely made the cut, was tied for 24th place.

A third amateur, Bert Atkinson, didn't fare so well. He shot a 6-over 78 on Saturday and had an overall score of 9 over.

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