Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Thursday, June 17, 1999
US Open early leaders
By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Sports Writer
PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — A soggy Pinehurst No. 2 greeted golfers this
morning as play began in the U.S. Open on a course soaked by overnight
Phil Mickelson, carrying a beeper to alert him if his pregnant wife
began going into labor, made three birdies in his first five holes and
held the early lead with about a third of the field on the course at 2-under
after seven holes.
Despite the rain that softened the famed domed greens, early starters
found trouble everywhere as they played through a light but steady rain.
Jack Nicklaus, playing in his first Open since having hip replacement
surgery, bogeyed five of his first six holes, while Japan's Jumbo Ozaki
took a quadruple bogey on the 11th hole and was 10-over through 13.
Ozaki was the first player off the tee this morning, hitting a drive
through the fog-shrouded first fairway into the right rough to open play
under conditions that seemed more similar to the British Open than the
More than a half-inch of rain fell overnight, and dozens of groundskeepers
spread out before dawn to drain greens and make sure the course was in
condition for the 156 golfers scheduled to tee off on the first day of
A drizzle greeted the morning's first group of Ozaki, David Toms and
Brandel Chamblee, and forecasters predicted occasional showers and possible
thunderstorms throughout the day.
The skies were expected to begin clearing late in the day, though, and
conditions for the weekend should be hot and dry.
Rain was the one thing Open officials didn't want because it softens
the greens, helping players hit iron shots directly at the pins perched
precariously on the slopes of the famous Donald Ross design.
For the fans who surround the greens at Pinehurst No. 2, this might
be the most entertaining U.S. Open in years.
It might also prove to be the most interactive.
"The gallery is going to get some business," Davis Love II said.
While one shot common in recent Opens — the sideways hack out of the
rough — was missing as play began today in the 99th U.S. Open, a hundred
others figure to replace it in and around the sloping greens of Pinehurst.
With players unafraid to go for the greens out of the relatively light
rough, balls that once would be hacked back to fairways will instead be
sent skyward with varying degrees of control toward the green.
The result could be that those missing the fairway could pay even worse
than in the deeper rough of past Opens.
That's precisely what Open officials would like to see on a course suddenly
more vulnerable to low scores after being softened by a few days of rain.
They envision players emboldened by tame lies in the rough ricocheting
balls off of greens and into galleries, leaving them nearly impossible
chips back toward the hole.
Tiger Woods, for one, wants his shots to end up short, since being behind
the Donald Ross-designed greens means almost certain bogey and possibly
Not that Woods or any of the world's best golfers are complaining about
the course after years of playing out of ankle-deep rough.
"This is the best U.S. Open I've seen, and that's pretty much the word
on the driving range and the putting green," Norman said. "It's going to
be an Open that's more of an international Open. A lot more players could
win this golf tournament than we've seen in the past."
A lot will be trying as play began this morning on the par-70 course
stretched to 7,175 yards for the championship.
Heavy rain that fell overnight drained easily on the sandy soil. But
it also made the greens easier to attack.
Janzen won his second Open last year at the Olympic Club in San Francisco,
but that was on a more traditional Open layout with thick, wet rough and
tight fairways that made it difficult to keep the ball in play.
Janzen won by playing steady on the final day and staying out of the
deep rough that lined the fairways and surrounded the greens.
The winner at Pinehurst will most likely become the U.S. Open champion
by figuring out the best way to get the ball up-and-down from the various
shaved surfaces just off the greens.
"It's going to be real interesting to see how we choose to play different
golf shots," Stewart said. "I think that's what is really going to make
the Open here at Pinehurst very special.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 1999 by Pecos Enterprise