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This week in golf

Teeing Off

June 07, 2007|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

Five things to keep an eye on this weekend on the pro golf scene:

1. This just in from the USGA: The rough at Oakmont Country Club is too high. Now that's an upset. In fact, the rough is actually getting mowed, as the U.S. Open arrives next week.

Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Assn.'s senior director of rules and competitions and the man responsible for the setup at Oakmont, said the growing conditions have been so favorable that the rough simply was "too much" and too thick.

The first cut of rough was supposed to be four inches high and the other rough from six to 6 1/2 inches, but now it has been scaled back to four inches high and to 2 3/4 to five inches.

"The whole concept is we're not looking for pitch-out rough," Davis said. "We want guys in there to have a shot at the green, at least in the first cut. That doesn't necessarily mean everyone will do it, but we want to give them the opportunity."

Davis said the first cut covers about seven paces from the fairway.

Said Geoff Ogilvy, the defending champion: "It's the hardest course I've ever seen."

Maybe. The biggest changes from the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont, according to Davis, are that the bunkers are more penal and the rough less penal.

"You're going to see some guys want to hit it in the rough instead of bunkers," Davis said.

That's another upset.

2. Ernie Els putted cross-handed at the Memorial, a sure sign of desperation, and not exactly the textbook method to prepare to take on the lightning-fast greens at Oakmont, where he won the 1994 Open. Els also had treatment on his left knee that he injured nearly two years ago and clearly isn't 100%.

3. News that Phil Mickelson's injured left wrist is only inflamed and not broken should be warmly received in Mickelson's camp. According to Dr. Steven Shinn, a hand and wrist expert at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, Mickelson was fortunate.

"It's definitely the best possible scenario," Shinn said. "If it had been a break, he'd definitely be out at least six weeks, a sprain would be a week or more and a cartilage tear would mean he could have been out for a few days to a few months, depending on whether surgery was necessary.

"It could have been a very significant setback."

4. Tiger Woods showed up at Oakmont on Monday to take his second look at the layout. He joined Els in a tie for 15th at the Memorial, but his schedule has kept him jumping ... from the Players, to commercial appearances, to his "Tiger Jam" in Las Vegas, to Washington for a news conference for his July tournament and then to the Memorial, then a teleconference for the PGA Championship after practicing at Oakmont, picking up a sore throat along the way.

Woods might not hit a ton of drivers at Oakmont because of the shape of the holes, and that might help him find more fairways. In his practice at Oakmont, he hit drivers at the fourth, seventh, ninth, 12th and 18th.

5. The honeymoon is over for Michelle Wie after her withdrawal last week, citing a wrist injury, on her way to a possible 88 that would have ended her LPGA season. Now there's a lot of piling on. Before the LPGA Championship this week, Annika Sorenstam cited a lack of class in Wie's withdrawal, especially because Wie was hitting balls 48 hours later at the site of the major in Maryland.

But that's not all: LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens intervened when Wie's pro-am partners complained she stiffed them, Wie's parents were told to stay off the driving range by an LPGA official and several players were riled that Wie seemed to be getting special treatment.

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