SAN FRANCISCO – The language of golf is universal and Peter Senior, the Australian who has played golf around the globe, speaks it fluently.
Senior has won more money on the Champions Tour -- $4.2 million – without winning a tournament than any player in history.
In 94 events, he has earned an average of $45,421. He has 33 top-10 finishes.
But no victories.
What’s the word for that unlikely scenario? Surprise?
“I've got a few other words for it,” Senior said Thursday after an 8-under 63 staked him to the first-round lead at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
“Probably the only disappointing thing in the whole four years (on the Champions Tour). It's such a great tour, I've enjoyed every minute that I've been here. I've had my opportunities to win, lost a few playoffs here, but I'm a little disappointed that I haven't won in the four years.
“This year I haven't played that well and I can understand it, but the first two or three years I was here I played pretty good,” Senior continued. “You've just got to be fortunate at the right time and I haven't done enough coming down the stretch, I haven't made a couple of birdies, just made pars all the way in instead of making one or two birdies just to make that difference. Hopefully it will happen.”
The opening 63 was the lowest first round in tournament history and matched Senior’s lowest round on the Champions Tour.
It was also a microcosm of what has kept Senior out of the victory column. For all the really good golf he displayed at TPC Harding Park, for all the excellent shots he hit, there were enough mistakes to contemplate when it was over. Not often does anybody shoot 63 with three bogeys but that’s what happened to Senior.
“He made three bogeys and shot 63?” David Frost repeated, just to be sure he heard correctly.
Frost is a shot behind the leader after a 64, with no bogeys. Fred Couples is another shot back with a 65 thanks to very nice par saves on the 17th and 18th holes.
Senior’s front-nine 30 included a bogey at the par-3 third hole. Senior shot 33 on the back, with two more bogeys.
“The last few weeks I haven't played that well,” he said. “The weekend last week I started to hit it a little better. Today I only missed a couple of shots. I made bogey out of the ones that I missed but probably the best round of golf that I've played this year. I putted well and I played well.”
When Senior made eagle at the ninth hole and birdies at the 11th and 12th holes to reach 8 under, he started to think about the possibilities.
“I was counting the easy holes that I could possibly birdie coming in,” he said. “When I made the bogey, it went straight out the window. And some of the holes I birdied, 12 and 14, are really good holes. I had 200 yards into both of them. To birdie those holes is a little bonus for me.”
The solid start, following some of his other good performances recently, has Senior rethinking the offseason.
“I was actually thinking of pulling out next week,” he said. “That was two weeks ago, then I started to play a little better. We’ve got the Australian PGA next week (in the Gold Coast, Queensland) and it’s only 10 minutes from my house. I arrive on Wednesday and tee it up Thursday. I’ll be a little buggered but I always enjoy playing tournaments at home.
“It’s nothing we haven’t done before. Australia and South Africa are always the same. They’ve got their tours at the end of every season and if you want to go home and support your own tour, then that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got great fields for our event down there next week. We’ve got Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler so we’ve got a really good field.”
Why wouldn’t Senior enjoy returning home? Since becoming a member of the Champions Tour, Senior won the Australian PGA in 2010 over Geoff Ogilvy. Last year, he won the Australian Open against the kids. That’s pretty good for somebody who was saying how long TPC Harding Park is for his game. Next week, he’ll be the shortest hitter in the field by a wide margin.
“Oh, you have no idea how far they hit it past me,” Senior said. “I've been fortunate to win some tournaments at home, I won two PGAs and the Open last year but they've been on courses where length doesn't matter. Last year at the Aussie Open, The Lakes, these guys would have been hitting irons off tees and that sort of stuff and I'm just blazing away with my driver, so there wasn't much of an advantage. The two PGAs at Coolum, exactly the same, the length just has no value there. So you've got to pick your courses when you play.”
Somebody else picked TPC Harding Park for this week but it’s safe to say that based on Thursday’s round, Senior might have done the same if he had the opportunity.