Unlike Thursday, when Smoltz strung together 12 bogeys, five pars, and the triple bogey, hitting hit only two of 18 greens in regulation and six of 14 fairways, there were actual highlights to point to Friday.
Like sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on his second hole. And holing out from 44 feet and thick green-side rough on No. 12, for his second birdie of the tournament.
“I felt like if I didn't birdie a hole in two days, that would have been an empty feeling,” Smoltz told reporters after his second round.
Even missing the cut - and he missed it by a mile, 14 shots separating Smoltz (22 over) from the 8 over cut line - could be considered almost a relief.
For all his baseball feats, the 51-year-old Smoltz had called qualifying for this tournament “probably the No. 1 thing that I ever accomplished,” due to the individual nature of golf. But once that euphoria faded, there was the matter of enduring 36 holes of hard truth.
“On TV it looks a little easier than it is,” he said following Friday’s round, “and everyone could think they could hit those shots. I'm telling you, these guys are the best in the world and it brought some of them, and brought me to my humbling knees.
Smoltz said he learned that neither he, nor his game, was quite ready for golf on this level. Along the way, he gave an implied endorsement to the kind of physical shape the top over-50 players have maintained.
“I learned a lot, (for one) that I'm not in the kind of shape I need to be in to play this kind of golf. I thought I was,” Smoltz said.
Thursday’s round was an unmitigated slog through high grass and high numbers. Sure, Smoltz said, he was grateful to be in the field. “Like a check off a bucket list,” as he put it.
But, also, he was just a little ticked. “I just hope to put on a better show (Friday). My family and friends – I would have left if I was at the ninth hole – but they stuck around. I'm happy they did. But I would have left. I couldn't have watched myself anymore,” he said Thursday.
Friday was a little bit of a tonic.
“Coming into (Round 2) people could say, oh, just let it go, you got nothing to lose. Man, when you shoot an 85, you've lost your confidence.
“I felt like I hit some quality shots again (Friday) and that to me meant more getting on a plane than if I would have shot another 84 or 85.”
For Smoltz, it’s back to reality, of a sorts, when he returns to the broadcast booth for a MLB Network game Monday night in Los Angeles. “I got to quit thinking about golf. And I got to start catching back up on my day job. Luckily I'm not going to quit my day job,” he said.
Smoltz is not the first former major leaguer to struggle on this stage – only the most noted. According to the USGA, three other ballplayers, all pitchers, have passed through the Senior Open. Ralph Terry and Erik Hanson missed the cut. In 2006, Rick Rhoden tied for 41st.
Smoltz has no plans to put up the clubs and try to find yet another sport to play.
I shall return, he declared.
“I'll never forget this experience,” he told reporters Friday. “I plan on being back. I plan on qualifying again. And I just think that I could do some different things with my time off and get back in the gym and get back in shape.”