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Steelers' Roethlisberger injures knee

| Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wearing a golf shirt and shorts Wednesday as he left the Steelers' South Side facility, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked like he was ready to play in an amateur challenge at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y., the site of this year's U.S. Open.

The demanding Open conditions -- the course is long and penal while the greens are faster than oil-slicked roads -- may not be the only challenge for Roethlisberger on June 12 when he plays in the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge.

Roethlisberger hurt his left knee yesterday and did not finish practice. While the injury does not appear to be serious -- Roethlisberger did not have the knee wrapped after practice -- he did limp as he walked from the Steelers' indoor field to their locker room and later as he left the facility.

Roethlisberger declined comment on how he hurt his knee or the severity of the injury.

He did have plenty to say regarding the U.S. Open Challenge, which will be aired nationally by NBC prior to the final round of the U.S. Open.

Roethlisberger, former NBA star Michael Jordan and singer Justin Timberlake, as well as a Golf Digest contest winner, will play Bethpage with the goal of breaking 100 in U.S. Open conditions.

"It's an awesome opportunity," said Roethlisberger, who has a single-digit handicap and has played in celebrity events. "I play quite a bit. I don't know if I'll ever be as ready as I want to be, but it's next week."

All four amateur golfers get the benefit of having a professional player or teacher on their bag, and Greensburg native Rocco Mediate will caddie for Roethlisberger.

Event organizers had talked to Roethlisberger about having Mediate or Jim Furyk, another Steelers fan with western Pennsylvania ties, serve as his caddie.

"They asked Rocco and he wanted to do it," Roethlisberger said, "so I was excited about that."

Mediate starred in one of the most riveting sports dramas in 2008.

Ranked No. 158 in the world, he nearly beat Tiger Woods at last year's U.S. Open. Mediate took the top-ranked Woods to a playoff at Torrey Pines in southern California before finally giving way on the 19th extra hole.

His performance and grace under pressure won him national if not international acclaim and admiration. If having him take part in the event is a no-brainer for NBC, so is pairing Mediate with Roethlisberger.

"Rocco's a huge Steelers fan," said Frank Zoracki, Mediate's agent. "He's a big Pittsburgh sports fanatic."

Roethlisberger said he and Mediate, who is playing in the Memorial Open this week, have been "communicating" about their upcoming round at Bethpage.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to call him out on some bad reads," Roethlisberger said with a chuckle.

This is the second year for the U.S. Open Challenge, which has, in some ways, local roots.

It came about after Tiger Woods said a player with a 10-handicap could not break 100 at Oakmont Country Club prior to the 2007 U.S. Open.

Last year at Torrey Pines, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo shot 84 prior to the U.S. Open; Timberlake had a 98 and "Today" show co-host Matt Lauer carded a 100.

Roethlisberger said he has never played Bethpage Black, which hosted the 2002 U.S. Open. He does know enough about the course to give a preliminary scouting report on what he'll face next week.

"Long, narrow, a lot of carry," Roethlisberger said. "Good luck."

Additional Information:

Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge

When: June 21 from noon to 1:30 p.m. on NBC

Where: Bethpage Black Golf Course in New York, site of this year's U.S. Open

Who: Celebrity golfers Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Jordan and Justin Timberlake as well as Phoenix police officer Larry Giebelhausen, who won a national essay contest, will try to break 100 in U.S. Open conditions.

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