Scott McCarron is so comfortable playing golf at TPC Sugarloaf that he could break par in his pajamas.
Seriously. No exaggeration. That’s exactly what he did Saturday.
Somewhere beneath the ski cap and the long sleeves and the rain pants – the 53-year-old looked like he got lost on his way to the British Senior Open – McCarron opted for yet another layer to protect himself from the wet spring chill.
“One of our rules officials told my wife, you know, if you want to stay warm, just wear pajamas,” McCarron said. “So, I'm like, that's a good idea. I've never done that. I'm going to do that today.”
Investigative journalists discovered that he was wearing neither The Avengers nor SpongeBob model PJs, ruining an amusing visual by sticking to a more adult brand. Attention men’s nightwear manufacturers everywhere, if you are looking for some endorsement punch from a slightly used golfer, we have just the man for you.
Pajama Man will take a three-stroke lead into Easter Sunday’s final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Classic. That by virtue of a second-round 70 that left him 6 under for the tournament.
This is a position that McCarron is well-acquainted with here, although the memory does have some dust on it. Twice before he has carried final-round leads into big tournaments held on this property. That was in 1997 and 2001, when younger men roamed these hills and the PGA Tour stopped in for the BellSouth Classic. Both times McCarron won. Yes, he is quite comfortable here.
“You know, it's a long time,” he said, now speaking as an eight-time winner on this over-50 PGA Tour Champions. “But once you come back to a golf course you play well at, those memories start coming back to you. You start seeing lines off tees that you took (decades ago), you start seeing maybe some of the putts you made coming down the stretch. Even though it's a long time, I still have a pretty good memory of the good stuff.”
Chasing him Sunday will be a quite small collection of players (eight to be precise) who have been able to get it under par these two days on a tough course under the tough conditions of rain and cold and gusty wind.
In second is Rocco Mediate, who shot 68 in his Saturday second round to get to 3 under, three back of McCarron.
It was a long day for the majority of the field, 54 players needing to finish their rain-delayed first round Saturday before getting to the business of the second round. Rare was the golfer who could manage the workload and the conditions. TPC Sugarloaf thus far has played to a stroke average of more than two shots over par (74.23).
So, Saturday was particularly sweet for Mediate, who will be playing in the final grouping on this tour for the first time since 2016. “I put it on 16 greens today, which is sweet,” he said. “Still, the putting is so hard around here. Jeez, man, the putting's hard around here. They're just so fast. They're firm. They're still lightning, they're still bricks, so you've got to have control. It was a good day.”
Behind him at 2 under is a group of four players led by 2014 Mitsubishi Electric champion Miguel Angel Jimenez.
As the curtain on Saturday was closing, McCarron got a huge boost as two major pursuers fell off on the par 5 18th. One took a 10-story fall. Both Jimenez and Hall of Famer Vijay Singh were hitting wedges to the green on their third shots, at the time trailing McCarron by just a stroke.
Divers may still be looking for Singh. He hit not one, not two, but three shots into the pond guarding the front of that green. But he did one-putt. For a 10, going from 4 under for the tournament to 1 over in about the time it takes a train to derail.
At least playing partner Jimenez only found that pond once, and got out of there with a double bogey.
Meanwhile, coming up behind them, McCarron birdied No. 18 – he has played the par 5s in 4 under in the first two rounds – to fluff the pillow on the largest ever he has taken into a final round on the over-50 tour.
Counting memories is a big thing among this collection of men of a certain age. McCarron well remembers 1997 as his best. “Winning in '97 on Mother's Day actually, and my mom and dad were here. So that was pretty cool, pretty special to have them here for that,” he said.
His parents are still living, although watching from afar now.
“It would be nice to make a new memory here,” said McCarron, who makes his home in North Carolina. “It's just a special place. I've always loved it. And coming here, I remember when I first came here seeing all these big mansion houses and everybody's got land, and I'm like, oh, my God, maybe someday I could afford a house like that. It was always something to kind of strive for.”
By now, all this time later, he’s quite at-home with it all. Should he win Sunday in a robe and slippers, do not be shocked.
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