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Watered-Down Controversy

USGA decides to do something about the seventh hole, but it's too late for the first two groups.

June 21, 2004|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — After the first two groups played Shinnecock Hills' controversial seventh hole Sunday, the four players had three triple bogeys and a bogey.

But before the next group stepped to the tee, the USGA delayed play for 10 minutes and called for a crew to drag a hose to the green and spray it with water.

It was the proper, if not controversial and certainly completely surprising decision by the USGA championship committee and its chairman, Walter Driver.

By the time the green had been watered, the grass was nearly dead and the putting surface rock hard. Getting a ball to stop on the green was close to impossible.

Certainly that's what J.J. Henry and Kevin Stadler said afterward. Playing in the first group, they both made triple bogeys.

"Being the first group off, we were kind of like the guinea pigs out there," Henry said.

"Absolutely unfair."

Henry, who had a 43 on the front, rallied for a 33 on the back and shot 76.

Stadler didn't fare as well. He finished with an 85 and was not at all happy with the seventh.

"It was ridiculous," he said. "I had a two-foot putt for par and make six. It hit a spike mark, catches the lip and winds up in the bunker.

"I don't see how they can justify the golf course being equal for everyone. Maybe I don't have the right to say this, but I think it's unjust to make the golf course different for different people."

Driver admitted Saturday that the seventh green had been rolled before play, apparently by mistake. Jerry Kelly said he didn't believe it.

"They lied yesterday," he said. "They said 'We told them not to roll that one.' [I] talked to the superintendent [Mark Michaud]. Superintendent said, 'Hey, I'm not getting in the middle of this. They told me to roll it.'

"They're trying to put the blame, because of their stupidity, on somebody who's doing a good job. It's not the superintendent's fault. This is the USGA's fault, and it is every year."

The seventh hole, a 189-yard par three with an elevated, sloping green, turned out to be only the fourth-toughest hole Sunday, playing to an average of 3.6 shots. The most difficult hole was the par-four 10th, which averaged five shots.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

HOLE OF THE DAY

Hole: 17

* Yardage: 179 * Par: 3

* Stroke average: 3.485 * Rank: 14th

* Key fact: Phil Mickelson three-putted from five feet to make double bogey and fall out of the lead. Retief Goosen got up and down from the sand for a par.

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