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FOCUS ON GOLF: U.S. Senior Open | SENIOR OPEN NOTES

Nelson Not Exactly Walking on Air at Riviera

July 23, 1998|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Big Two of senior golf has grown to a Big Three with the addition of Larry Nelson, who brings a resume of success in major tournaments to this week's U.S. Senior Open at Riviera.

Nelson, who turned 50 in September, won the 1981 PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club, the 1983 U.S. Open at Oakmont and the 1987 PGA at PGA National.

But none of them were like this.

"This may be the hardest venue I played anywhere," he said Wednesday. "I am talking about U.S. Opens in the past. I am talking about PGAs in the past.

"The way this golf course is set up up right now, it could be as hard as any of them I have ever played."

The problem, Nelson said, is the rough. "I don't know about kikuyu grass, but I don't think you are supposed to grow it 12 inches high," he said.

"I am not sure about that . . . but I mean there are a lot of times that I am walking six inches above the ground because it is so strong and my feet never get down to the bottom of it."

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In the field is a familiar face, if you watch CBS golf. Gary McCord is 50 years old.

He qualified at the Sagamore in Albany, N.Y., after practicing before and after television stints and working with Mac O'Grady.

McCord, whose best finish on the PGA Tour was second (twice in Milwaukee)acknowledges he is a celebrity before he is a golfer.

"In life, you try to live a contradiction, and if I played well, it would be a contradiction," he said of his chances at Riviera.

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Hubert Green was complaining about watering the second fairway. "They don't need water on it," he said. "[Tee shots] back up as it is."

He and many of the players were complaining about the soft fairways and hard greens. "Exactly the opposite of what you want," Nelson said.

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Times columnist Jim Murray contributed to this story.

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