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U.S. OPEN NOTES

On Greens, It's All Downhill or All Uphill

June 12, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — The slope of things to come? On the greens of Olympia Fields Country Club, there are fewer flat places than there are bargains in the U.S. Open merchandise tent (T-shirts $24, golf shirts $83) and it might take some time for the players to get used to them.

"Tricky slopey," said Dave Ward, the course superintendent. "You can get on a green, you can stand there, you can look around, you can putt around and the slope is either uphill or downhill than what you can feel and what you can see."

Phil Mickelson says the speed of the greens is inconsistent, but Ward and the USGA's director of agronomy, Tim Moraghan, believe the slope of the greens is what might be fooling Mickelson.

"I think as the players get in the competitive rounds, they're going to discover [the slopes] and hopefully the better players are going to adjust to it and figure it out," Ward said.

Said Moraghan: "We're pretty much right where we want."

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The youngest player in the field of 156 is 16-year-old Tom Glissmeyer, who made it through both local and sectional qualifying in Colorado.

In the sectional round at Columbine Country Club, Glissmeyer began with a triple bogey but wound up with a three-under 141 (72-69) and made it.

A sophomore at Cheyenne Mountain High in Colorado Springs, Glissmeyer has a 4.3 grade-point average and has been nominated to the National Scholastic Society for Who's Who in Science.

He also knows something about comedic timing. Asked what he drives better, a golf ball or a car, Glissmeyer paused for effect before answering, "Car."

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The USGA is not sensitive about negative comments ... well, maybe a little.

Padraig Harrington's comment that the U.S. Open courses take the flair out of the game and encourage plodders was passed on to Fred Ridley, chairman of the championship committee, and Reed Mackenzie, president of the USGA.

Said Ridley: "I suppose certainly Padraig is entitled to his opinion. I think the record speaks for itself."

Said Mackenzie: "I suppose as one of the champion plodders, Padraig sort of liked that."

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The first time Tom Watson played a PGA Tour event was in 1971 at the Western Open at Olympia Fields. Watson was 21. This week, Watson, 53, is back at Olympia Fields to play in his 30th U.S. Open.

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Together again. Yes, it's Vijay Singh and caddie Dave Renwick, who was with Singh when he won the PGA Championship at Sahalee. Renwick became available last week when he parted ways with Lee Westwood.

To reunite, Singh bid farewell to caddie Paul Tesori, who has worked with Singh through four wins the last two years and six consecutive top-11 finishes. Renwick worked with Jose Maria Olazabal and Steve Elkington when they won major titles.

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Tiger Woods says the new prototype ball that he has been playing the last month is a three-cover Nike ball that he helped create with his comments during development. No longer a prototype, the ball is called Nike One.

"I know for a fact that this ball is better in the cross winds than my previous ball," Woods said. "This ball actually falls straight down, so you can be more aggressive and go at some of these flags."

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Hale Irwin won the U.S. Open the last time it was played near Chicago, when he beat Mike Donald in a playoff at Medinah in 1990. Irwin's slice of the prize money: $220,000. The winner this time gets $1.08 million.

Irwin is here for the 33rd consecutive year, after receiving a special exemption. He has 34 Open appearances overall. The only player with more is Jack Nicklaus with 44.

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How important is driving the ball straight at the U.S. Open? Since the PGA Tour began keeping stats in 1980, no player has led the Open in driving accuracy and won. But eight players have led the Open in greens in regulation and won -- including Woods last year.

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