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NOTES

USGA May Get Tough

June 16, 2003|Thomas Bonk and Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writers

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — So if Olympia Fields was sort of a pushover, is the USGA going to make Shinnecock Hills a complete beast for next year's U.S. Open?

"Your guess is as good as mine," Tom Watson said.

There already is speculation that the difference between the 2003 and 2004 U.S. Opens will be similar to the difference between the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont -- where Johnny Miller shot a 63 -- and the 1974 version at Winged Foot, where Hale Irwin won with a score seven over par.

In other words, look out. The kinder, gentler USGA of this year may do a Jekyll-Hyde thing.

Fred Funk said making Shinnecock Hills tougher would be an overreaction by the USGA.

"That course can stand on its own," said Funk, who played the 1986 Open there. "I thought it was the most difficult Open I'd ever played in. If Mother Nature had cooperated this week, the USGA would have had what it wanted."

Instead of rock-hard fairways and firm greens, there was cool, cloudy weather for most of the week and the course was soft. As the pros know, if they can control where the ball stops -- which they can do when the course is not firm -- then they're going to score.

The official stand of the USGA is that the scores were directly attributable to the weather.

"I think the golf course has stood up very well, albeit with low scores due to some wet conditions," said Reed Mackenzie, the USGA president. "That's the one variable that nobody can do anything about."

According to Mackenzie, no one at the USGA is obsessed with saving par.

"That's overstated," he said. "Par is the criteria when we set up a course and get ideal weather conditions.

"But on the other hand, nobody at the USGA to my knowledge gets very upset when somebody is 10 under par."

*

For the 33rd consecutive year, the U.S. Open was not won by a player from Europe. England's Tony Jacklin was the last to do it, in 1970 at Hazeltine.

Low round of the day among the European players was Padraig Harrington's 68. The 31-year-old from Dublin finished at one-over 291, one shot behind Justin Rose of England and Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden.

Harrington said he putted poorly and blamed it on being tired from playing the two weeks before the Open.

"I've over-practiced, too," Harrington said. "That's why I putted poorly. Usually, that's a sign of fatigue."

*

Watson on Tiger Woods: "I wouldn't worry too much about Tiger not winning a major for a year. How many years did Jack Nicklaus go without winning a major?"

Nicklaus had droughts from July 1967 to July 1970, April 1976 to July 1978, and April 1981 to April 1986.

*

Trip Kuehne beat Ricky Barnes by one shot to claim the title of low amateur.

Kuehne finished at 10-over 290 while Barnes shot 291.

Kuehne, 30, is an equity salesman from Dallas. Barnes, who won the 2002 U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills, plans to turn pro this summer after a stellar college career at Arizona.

The highlight of Kuehne's week was the three-under 67 he turned in Friday.

"To shoot three under in the greatest golf tournament against the greatest players in the world, I'm very proud of it," he said.

Kuehne's given name, for what it's worth, is Ernest.

*

During play this week, television cameras several times caught Woods blowing his nose into a handkerchief.

Woods is not sick, per se, but is suffering a severe case of allergies.

Asked how long he has been suffering, Woods said, "All my life. I don't know what it's like to breathe out of both nostrils."

*

Gory details of Phil Mickelson's U.S. Open: He finished nine-over 289 and hit only 20 of a 56 fairways. He shot rounds of 70-70-75-74.

Mickelson had twice as many bogeys, 14, as birdies and also had two double bogeys.

He is 0 for 44 in majors.

*

Next major stop: The British Open at Sandwich, England, July 17-20.

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