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U.S. OPEN CONGRESSIONAL 1997

U.S OPEN REPORT : NOTES : This Open Might Close Nicklaus Era

June 15, 1997|THOMAS BONK and BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

BETHESDA, Md. — As usual, the numbers associated with Jack Nicklaus are staggering. Not only is the 57-year-old legend playing in his 41st consecutive U.S. Open, it's his 150th appearance in a major championship.

The British Open at Troon would be No. 151 for Nicklaus, but he isn't sure he'll be there even though he has entered.

"I haven't made up my mind what I'm going to do," he said. "More than likely, I won't play."

Nicklaus is a four-time U.S. Open champion--with victories in 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1980--and has won 70 times on the PGA Tour and 10 times on the Senior PGA Tour.

His first Open was at Inverness in 1957 when Nicklaus was a 17-year-old amateur, but is this one at Congressional his last?

Nicklaus has hinted it might be, but both Ben Crenshaw and Hale Irwin hope it isn't.

"Jack is such a legend," Crenshaw said. "To think that this could be his last Open is simply too much. I mean, think of all the championships he has won, but then think of all the times he has been in contention."

A winner of 18 major championships, Nicklaus has finished second in the U.S. Open four times.

Irwin, who played with Nicklaus and Crenshaw the first two days, said it was a pleasure.

"Jack is the greatest player in the game and to think this is his last Open . . . I hope not," Irwin said.

Nicklaus, who is nine over par after three rounds, said he doesn't expect the USGA to grant him any more special exemptions for the Open.

"I think that's asking too much of them, you know, to get an old man and ask him to keep on playing," he said.

*

At least one amateur grew up quickly here Saturday morning when Stanford's Joel Kribel, a former teammate of Tiger Woods, needed only a double bogey on the 18th hole to make the cut . . . and scored a triple bogey instead.

His tee shot on the par-three 18th fell short and into the water. His five-foot putt to make the cut slid past the hole.

He ended his round with his eyes closed, head bowed in frustration.

"This will haunt me for a while," said Kribel, 20, who will be a senior in the fall. "I think I need a little time to myself. I'll need to talk to my dad."

*

The second round, which began Friday morning, began again at 7 a.m. Saturday, since 45 players didn't finish Friday night.

The second round ended at 9:32 a.m., some 26 1/2 hours after it started. Then, at 10:10 a.m., the third round began.

The 36-hole cut was at seven-over 147. Last year at Oakland Hills, the cut was at one over par. The highest cut in U.S. Open history was 15 over, at Olympic Club, San Francisco, in 1955.

*

Greg Sweatt, who finished last in the field of 156 with a 27-over 167, also had the highest score on any hole when he recorded an 11 on the par-four 17th.

Sweatt, a struggling 34-year-old pro playing in his first Open, hit his first shot into the trees. He chipped out, then knocked it in the water.

His fifth shot went into the rough, and his next three shots failed to move him out of the rough.

When he finally reached the green, he two-putted for an 11.

Sweatt now returns to the Nike Tour, where he has finished no better than 39th in five events this year.

*

The prize money is an Open record $2,711,320, an increase over last year's record total of $2.4 million.

First place is $465,000, which also is a record. Steve Jones won $425,000 last year at Oakland Hills.

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