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Sports Weekend | GOLF

USGA Staking Out Riviera as Future Open Turf

July 31, 1998|THOMAS BONK

Chances are the U.S. Open is coming to Riviera Country Club . . . but not before 2005.

Last week's U.S. Senior Open was a huge success in the eyes of David Fay, the executive director of the U.S. Golf Assn. who favors staging an Open at Riviera for the first time since 1948.

"Riviera is a wonderful golf course," Fay said. "It would be wonderful to have the National Open return to Los Angeles. To not have an Open staged in Southern California in 50 years is something we need to address."

Next year, the U.S. Open will be held at Pinehurst, N.C., and its future sites are booked through 2003. Fay indicated a site already has been selected, but not announced, for 2004, which means Riviera wouldn't get called until at least 2005. And that announcement probably wouldn't happen until the Open at Pinehurst, Fay said.

Neither poor fan support--one estimate of the attendance for the four days was 60,000--nor the possible sale of the club are particularly daunting to Riviera's prospects for an Open, according to Fay, who called the turnout "rather sparse."

But there is one growing problem--the kikuyu grass.

"It was a surprise to some of the players," he said. "Probably the ones that play the L.A. Open [when] the grass is dormant. Some courses have trees, some courses have wind, Riviera has kikuyu grass.

"The golf course just reaffirmed its position as one of the most difficult you'll find anywhere. Top shelf. The question is, are we prepared to have the National Open on a course that's principally kikuyu grass? That's the big question."

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Se Ri Pak is the biggest story in women's golf. Now if we only knew what her name is.

Is it Pak or is it Park?

This qualifies as controversy on the LPGA Tour, which doesn't need it. Not when you have what appears to be an arriving superstar, a 20-year-old South Korean who in her first year has won four tournaments, two of them majors and is going for a third at the du Maurier Classic in Windsor, Canada--and we still aren't for sure if we have her last name right.

This whole thing started when Dodger pitcher Chan Ho Park, who is also a South Korean, said Pak used to have the same last name as he does, but it was changed on her passport. How he came to know this is not clear, but it was worth checking out.

Pak did nothing to settle the issue last week at the Giant Eagle Classic in Howland, Ohio.

Said Pak: "My dad makes some mistake or maybe I am special. So he make it Pak. So my passport comes back Pak."

Sure, that's clear. So Se Ri's dad, Joon Chul, changed it, after all?

Uh, no, according to family spokesperson Sung Yong Kil.

Kil, who travels with Pak on the LPGA Tour, said Se Ri's last name always has been Pak. He said the Korean Golf Assn. used Park instead of Pak when Se Ri received her passport when she was 15.

PALMER ON TIGER

Tiger Woods is in, what, a slump, or a nose dive, or just a high tax bracket?

"You could call it a sophomore jinx," Arnold Palmer said of Woods, who has won once since last July, but has eight top-10 finishes in his second full year on the PGA Tour.

"The fact is he's been around in there, and one of these days he'll break out and do what everybody thinks he should do every time he plays. But I'll tell you, it's not that easy a game.

"Tiger has probably the most potential we have had for years in golf. Go back to Nicklaus, if you will. Nicklaus didn't win every tournament . . . just almost every tournament.

"Tiger Woods has an opportunity to be a potential dominant winner. He has to keep his head on his shoulders. It's not going to come just because his name is Tiger Woods."

PALMER ON PALMER

He knows what he needs to do to play better, but he doesn't want to do it.

"Go out to the range and beat it, work hard to shoot 74-75," he said. "That's what you need to do. I play with my friends and have fun."

HAIL, HALE

Hale Irwin, who has played 14 tournaments this year on the Senior PGA Tour, has not finished out of the top five.

HALF NELSON

Specialists said a herniated disk in his neck is the reason Larry Nelson had to pull out of the U.S. Senior Open after playing eight holes. Nelson said he had no strength in his right shoulder.

Nelson, third on the Senior PGA Tour money list with $1.1 million, is taking cortisone shots to treat the injury and is expected to be out of action for six weeks.

NEW TO THE BLOCK

And now, even more ways for senior tour players to make money: A new $720,000 senior match-play event to be held Nov. 13-15 at Bighorn is worth $240,000 to the winner in a 16-player, single-elimination field. The event, sanctioned by the PGA Tour, will be announced Monday.

BIRDIES, BOGEYS, PARS

The Quad Cities Classic has been plowed under by John Deere & Co. The company has a nine-year sponsorship deal and is moving the tournament to the TPC at Deere Run now under construction in Moline, Ill. John Deere will lease the course to the PGA Tour for $1 a year.

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