Friday, June 13

Checking in from Olympia Fields

Jesper Parnevik
Only one man can get away with these shoes in the U.S. Open -- Jesper Parnevik.

While the scores at Olympia Fields look like something from the Western Open instead of the U.S. Open, don't expect it to stay that way.

"When the weekend comes in the U.S. Open, guys come back to the field," said Ernie Els, who is 1-under for the tournament. "We've had two perfect days so far."

The rough was supposed to help compensate for the soft greens at Olympic Fields. And the wind was supposed to blow. Neither has worked.

"It's very fair," said Tiger Woods, who's rarely been in the rough. "You get one of three things -- you get no lie, you have a shot at getting to the green or you have a perfect lie. We haven't normally had that opportunity at U.S Opens. Usually, it sits down all the way on the bottom, but for some reason, you can get some pretty good lies out here."

Which has allowed players to paint the scoreboard with red numbers so far.

"Some feel like it's too easy right now, but it's got potential to really turn things around," said Tom Meeks, the USGA senior director in charge of rules and competitions (i.e. the guy in charge of the course and pin placements). "But I like our set-up. We've had perfect conditions and the greens are not firm. If this were a regular tour even, the scores would probably be at 15- or 18-under by now.

"But with a little help from the weather -- some heat, some wind -- and you watch, those scores are going to come back down."

Woods doesn't expect anything less. Asked if this could be a tournament where 10- or 12-under wins it, Woods just laughed.

"We'll see," he said. "If the USGA has their way, I don't think you're going to see that."

-- Joe Wojciechowski

Scores were low in the U.S. Open the first two days. But not everybody took full advantage.

Several potential favorites -- including Davis Love III -- won't be around for the weekend after missing the cut at 3-over, the lowest it's been since it was 2-over in 1990 at Medinah.

A total of 68 players survived -- including Chris DiMarco, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, Fred Funk, Kenny Perry, Scott Verplank and Colin Montgomerie, all of whom were 3-over.

Just missing the cut were Jose Maria Olazabal and Stuart Appleby among 12 players at 4-over. Jeff Sluman, who lives just outside of Chicago, was 5-over. Jeff Maggert was 6-over. Bob Estes, who shot 70 in the first round, shot 77 on Friday. Rocco Mediate was also 7-over.

Rory Sabbatini, who won the FBR Capital Classic on Monday, shot 73-75 at the U.S. Open. The group at 10-over inclued Billy Andrade, Nick Faldo, David Duval, Rich Beem and Brad Faxon.

Love, battling to overcome the suicide death of his brother-in-law in mid-May, went 76-75 and finished 11-over. K.J. Choi was 13-over after a first-round 79.

  • Woody Austin's 64 was overshadowed by Vijay Singh's 63 later in the day. But consider this: Before Friday, only three players had shot lower in Open history, including Johnny Miller's 63 (8-under) to win the '73 Open at Oakmont. Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf both shot 63 (7-under) in the first round in '80 at Baltrusol. Austin closed with three straight pars -- unaware that one birdie would have tied the record. "I had no idea," Austin said. "Honestly, no clue whatsoever."

  • Trip Kuehne spends his days as an equity salesman for Legg Mason in Dallas. "I play a lot of golf from tax day to the first of October," he said. Friday, he shot 67 to survive the cut (he's 1-over). Kuehne's brother is Hank, the 1998 U.S. Amateur champ, and his sister is Kelli, the 1995 and '96 Women's Amateur champ. Tripp finished second in the 1994 U.S. Amateur. His opponent? Tiger Woods, who won the first of his three straight Amateurs.

  • Jay Don Blake, second entering play Friday, shot 77 and barely made the cut. Scott Verplank, nearly out of it after an opening-round 76, shot 67 and made it.

  • The father-and-son team of Jay Haas and Bill Haas both missed the cut. Jay Haas shot 72 Friday and was 7-over; Bill, an amateur, shot 76 and was 9-over.


    "It doesn't have the same kind of punishing characteristics of Opens in the past."

    "I think the USGA created one of the best tests of golf ... It's evident by the scores."

    "A few of the players ... said this is, by far, the easiest U.S. Open they've every played in."

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