Is it a three-horse race or is there still time for the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship to become an old-fashioned free-for-all?
Or will a newcomer to the 50-and-over group make it strictly a one-horse race, harkening back to the glory days on the South Course at Firestone when Tiger Woods frequently left people in his red-and-black wake?
Only the golf gods know what is in store.
The three-horse scenario has first-round leader Steve Stricker and Brandt Jobe chasing down Retief Goosen, who turned Friday’s second round into a one-man show with a scintillating 8-under 62 that produced a 36-hole total of 9-under 131 and a 3-shot lead.
If the first two rounds were any indication, the chances of the three leaders being joined by a multitude of others in a mad dash to the finish appear unlikely as Jobe (69-65-134) and Stricker (64-70-134) were 3 shots clear of their nearest pursuers.
So, if your name isn’t Jobe or Stricker that means you are 6 shots behind two-time U.S. Open champion Goosen, who has played his last 28 holes without a bogey.
“That was an unbelievable round,” Stricker said of Goosen’s flirtation with the course record of 61 shared by Jose Maria Olazabal (1990), Tiger Woods (2000, 2013), Sergio Garcia (2014) and Hideki Matsuyama (2017). “He played so well and it was fun to watch. He didn’t miss many shots. It looked effortless for him. He played great and that’s what’s out there on this course.”
As it was, Goosen, 50, tied the tournament record held by Olin Browne and Fred Couples, both of whom shot 8 under at Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh in 2012 and 2013, respectfully.
Goosen, in his first year competing as a Senior, said he had no idea what the course record was and that it was within reach. A birdie miss from about three feet on No. 17 was the culprit.
“It was a little bit disappointing, the putt on 17,” said Goosen, whose round included an eagle on the 499-yard second hole and six birdies. “That could have made a bit of a difference. Anyway, I’ll take that any day.”
Most in the original field of 78 were forced to play extra holes on Friday because of the rain-plagued opening round, and it took its toll on many.
“I played almost 28 holes and I’m tired,” said Jobe, 53, who appears to be on track for his best Champions Tour finish of the season after a second round that included six birdies and just one bogey. “On this course, with it being wet and long, it was a long day.
"But I think that’s what happens on these days. You get momentum. If it gets going well, it goes real well. And, if gets going bad, it’s a struggle.”
Struggle was not an element of Goosen’s round, which got off to a soaring start with the eagle on No. 2 after he closed out his first round with a birdie on No. 18.
“Actually, I got it off to a nice flying start on my 18th at 7 this morning,” he said. “I birdied 18, then went back to the hotel, had an hour and a half sleep, came back out and continued the great play after that.”
Goosen took advantage of the second hole, which played as the easiest hole on the course just as it has during regular tour events with 59 birdies — considerably more than any other hole — to go with Goosen’s eagle.
Shortened from 526 yards to 499, Goosen reached the green in 2 with a 3-rescue and made about an 8-foot putt.
Then, he got as hot as the afternoon sun.
He made birdie on two of the last four holes on the front, then ripped off three consecutive birdies to start the back, making putts of 20 feet on Nos. 11 and 12. The putt at 12 gave him the lead for the first time and he increased it with another birdie on the 625-yard No. 16.
“Steve got off to a great start and you feel like you’re falling way behind,” Goosen said of Stricker’s opening 64. “I managed to finish OK this morning only being 5 behind, and suddenly I went on a roll and his game went dead.
"So, it’s funny how it works. You know, two rounds to go, a long way to go on this golf course.”