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FOCUS ON GOLF / U.S. OPEN | NOTES

USGA Says It Won't Toss High-Tech Clubs

June 18, 1998|RANDY HARVEY and THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SAN FRANCISCO — Calming the hysteria of golfers who believed they might lose the right to use their high-tech clubs, the U.S. Golf Assn. announced here Wednesday that virtually all equipment now in use will remain legal.

Big Bertha is spared, at least temporarily.

"We do not believe that the springlike effect in clubs that are presently in use has lessened the skill required to play the game at championships such as the U.S. Open or at the recreational level," USGA Executive Director David Fay said.

Fay added, however, that the USGA is devising a test to measure whether the rebound velocity of a golf ball off a club face creates a trampoline effect that puts more of a premium on golf clubs than the players who use them.

He said the USGA will send the test protocol to manufacturers and then discuss it with them during a meeting in the fall before establishing new standards.

"We are perfectly satisfied with what we see today," USGA President Buzz Taylor said. "But we don't know what is coming tomorrow.

"There are an awful lot of people that have an aerospace or high-metal technology background that are now involved in the game of golf. Our own consultants . . . have suggested that there are materials around the corner which may create a problem for the game."

John Daly stood at the back of the room during the news conference at the Olympic Club, wearing a cap advertising the Big Bertha titanium driver. The club's manufacturer, Callaway, has threatened litigation if it considers the USGA's regulations too strict.

"I think this announcement is good for our company and the others right now," said Daly, who has a sponsorship agreement with Callaway.

"But I don't believe in slowing down technology. Technology is what America is about. I don't know why we'd want to slow it down."

*

How bad is the rough at Olympic? It's not worth worrying about, according to Tom Watson.

"They aren't going to change it, no sense in complaining about it," he said. "It's better to just go ahead and understand that there is a penalty involved and you better make the most of it."

*

Casey Martin's threesome includes Edward Fryatt of England and, in delicious irony, former PGA Tour rules official David Eger, who qualified as an amateur. Martin's group has a 3:10 p.m. tee time, the third-last group to start.

Martin's parents, King and Melinda, and his brother, Cameron, drove from Eugene, Ore., to watch him play his practice round Tuesday. They left home at 4 a.m.

*

Jack Nicklaus, who is playing in his 42nd U.S. Open and has won it four times, has a new three-wood in his bag. Its main feature is a smaller head. He is also using a putter that is similar to, but slightly smaller than, the one he had when he won the Masters in 1986.

*

Scott Simpson, who won the U.S. Open at Olympic in 1987, had a quick answer when asked what has changed in his life since his victory 11 years ago:

"Besides my hair color?"

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