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His swing’s ugly; his record isn’t



Published: Thu, July 5, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

Allen Doyle is trying to be the first player to win three straight Senior Opens.

HAVEN, Wis. (AP) — A desperate hacker could flip through a mountain of golf-advice books and magazine articles and never find one that recommends swinging like Allen Doyle.

But Doyle figures his slap-shot swing, something that looks like a vestige of his days as a college hockey player, is just part of his everyman appeal.

“People are going to embrace someone, maybe, that they can say, ‘Well, I swing something like that,”’ Doyle said.

Besides, it seems to work just fine for him.

Doyle has risen from relative obscurity to win the past two U.S. Senior Opens, and will be going for an unprecedented three in a row when play begins today at Whistling Straits.

Although he doesn’t have the pedigree of a Tom Watson, the golf icon Doyle beat to win last year’s Senior Open, Doyle believes he’ll have the fans on his side.

“It is nice to get around and have people acknowledge what you’ve done,” Doyle said. “Even during the year, people were yelling, ‘Go for the threepeat.’ That’s kind of nice.”

Doyle occasionally returns the favor by letting fans in on the joke, playing his favorite gag on the gallery after hitting a drive.

“I’ll turn to them and say, ‘I’ve been trying to stay short of parallel. Did I stay short of parallel there?”’ Doyle said.

Different stroke

In sharp contrast with a traditional golf swing, where a player’s club shaft is more or less parallel with the ground at the top of his backswing, Doyle takes his club back only halfway.

“Some of them know I was kidding, and some of them don’t, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, no, you weren’t anywhere near parallel,”’ Doyle said.

Although Doyle graduated as the top-scoring defenseman in the history of Norwich (Vt.) University, his unorthodox swing has less to do with one-timers from the blue line than the fact that he practiced in a room with a low ceiling when he was younger.

“If you saw Allen swing on the first tee, you’d probably say, ‘I’ll give him five shots, and beat him pretty easy,”’ Watson said. “That isn’t the case.”

Doyle might not have a textbook swing or long-standing reputation as an elite golfer — he’s 58, but spent most of his years as an amateur and didn’t turn professional until 1995 — but he does have a shot at becoming U.S. Senior Open history. Only Doyle, Gary Player and Miller Barber have won back-to-back Senior Opens, and nobody has won three straight.

Good golf story

Doyle figures stories like his are good for golf.

“It does not become so humdrum that five guys show up and they’re the prohibitive favorites and maybe no one comes out to watch any more,” Doyle said.

Doyle likes his chances this week, assuming he goes back to driving the ball as well as he’s used to. But he doesn’t expect things to be easy.

“There’s a reason that it hasn’t been done — because it’s damn hard to do,” Doyle said.

Doyle will have to fend off a field that includes Jay Haas, who has won four times already on the Champions Tour this season; Hale Irwin, a two-time U.S. Senior Open champion; and 2007 Senior PGA Championship winner Denis Watson.

And everyone will have to contend with a course that could turn ugly if the winds whip up as fiercely as they did during practice rounds this week.

Perched on the banks of Lake Michigan about an hour north of Milwaukee, Whistling Straits’ relatively treeless layout leaves little to shield players from strong lake breezes.

“Although I would say I’m a pretty good wind player, wind at 10, 12 mph isn’t the same as 20 to 25 mph,” Doyle said. “So it’s something that you’re going to have to be patient with.”

The course’s difficulty will depend largely on wind conditions, along with tee and pin placements. But even on a day with relatively calm winds, Doyle said the course’s unforgiving narrow fairways leave little margin for error.

Doyle notes that if players miss shots in certain spots at Whistling Straits, “they’re going to have to send out search parties for guys.”


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