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Notebook: Challenging course frustrates Open field

| Monday, June 21, 2004

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- On a day when 28 out of 66 players recorded rounds of 80 or higher, there was plenty of grumbling, mumbling, swearing, name-calling and shaking of heads. And those were just the reactions of the players who could actually see par 70.

Tom Kite, who was in the field on a special exemption, was one of those who was in the 80s at 84. But as a guy who's been around and has the reputation of one of the classiest guys in the game, he tried to bring some order to the proceedings following his round.

"It's been a great week, a great week," he said. "I love the Open championship. I really do. I think our national championship is the premier event in golf. I think it's a shame when they push the course to the limit as much as they have in this particular case. But it's still our national championship and it's still a wonderful tournament. I hope to play in it many, many more times."

He even tried to find some humor in what most players in the field found to be an embarrassing day for professional golfers.

"I was going for 90, guys, and I might have been going for 100," he smiled. "I had a stretch there where I had seven holes where I had four double bogeys and a triple bogey. I can't remember doing that even when I was 6 or 7 years old. It was just absolutely horrific. I kept looking around for some rubber bands to act as a tourniquet or something. I mean it was just an unbelievable thing. Eighty-four is not any good. I'm not proud of it. I'm proud of the fact that I hung in there and finished and did some nice things. I played the last seven holes in even par."

No class

Jay Haas has gained a well-deserved reputation of being one of nicest of the nice guys on the PGA Tour. Pat Perez, in his three years on Tour, has earned a most deserving title as being one of the biggest jerks on Tour.

Early Sunday afternoon, as the two played a couple hours ahead of leaders, Haas was one of the fortunate few player to hit the perfect shot on the controversial par 3, 7th, stopping his ball three feet from the cup.

Perez plopped his tee shot into a greenside bunker on the left. He hit a good bunker shot out that stopped four feet about the cup. As he left the bunker, he slammed his sand wedge into the bank of the bunker in disgust.

He was still away and made his putt. Contrary to the way the game is played at the highest level, he picked his ball from the cup and walked immediately to the eighth tee, before Haas had even begun the process of playing his shot.

Haas missed the birdie putt, but posted a 71, one of the best rounds of the day. In a bit of poetic justice, Perez shot 81.

Harmon responds

The back-and-forth through the media between Tiger Woods and Butch Harmon continued Sunday during NBC's telecast of the final round of the U.S. Open.

Woods had fired the latest salvo, questioning on Saturday why Harmon, his former teacher, would make critical comments about him during an interview last week. To which Harmon said:

"If I was Tiger Woods, I'd probably be upset if I heard the same thing. But, as you know, I was reacting to a question. As an analyst for Sky (an international network), it is my job to give my opinion and quite frankly, I didn't say anything that the players on the practice tee haven't been saying themselves. They've all been talking about it the last few weeks. And, pretty much, I don't blame Tiger for being upset, but I can't help that. I have to do my job as an analyst and that was my opinion and how I felt."

Don't try this

Woods and his caddie, Steve Williams, were involved in three incidents this week with cameras, television and still. The last came on Saturday when Williams kicked the camera of a New York Daily News photographer.

USGA president David Fay said Sunday, "It's a tense situation out there, but I've instructed the officials, the rules official with the group, to speak with Steve and i there's an issue that Steve has, bring it to the officials attention. Let security deal with these incidents. Just like the professional should be dealing with the golf shots, professional security should be dealing with incidents because something could get ugly out there and you want to have the professional involved."

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