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Damp U.S. Open Course May Suit European Players

History says the winner of the 1995 U.S. Open probably will be a home-grown hero. Don’t be too sure. Authoritative sources are not always completely reliable.

Take the weatherman, for example.

For three days the forecast has been “clearing tomorrow.” That was the latest word on Wednesday, on the eve of the American national championship: clearing tomorrow.

David Eger, director of rules and competitions for the sponsoring U.S. Golf Association, said more than 3 inches of rain have fallen on the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club course this week. More is expected.

Frantic grounds crews have kept the course playable - barely. But gallery walkways are muddy troughs. Pedestrian areas around concession tents, hospitality tents and comfort stations are ankledeep quagmires.

All the factors - the weather, the conditions, the site, the situation - have combined to make this the mysterious open. No one knows what to expect.

While other major tournaments have, in recent years, been dominated by foreign players, the U.S. Open has remained an American plaything.

Of the 49 tournaments since World War II, only a handful have been won by foreignborns: two South Africans (Gary Player and defender Ernie Els), an Australian (David Graham), and an Englishman (Tony Jacklin).

“I can’t explain it,” Greg Norman said. “Certainly the Europeans have some of the better players in the world, players who are capable of winning the U.S. Open.

“Maybe they just haven’t been coming over in time to get themselves acclimated.”

But that won’t wash for the centennial anniversary of the U.S. Open, which began today at historic Shinnecock.

First of all, Europe’s best, Nick Faldo of England, has moved his base to the United States and plays most of his golf in this country.

Perhaps more important, however, is the rain and the course, called by Els “one of the best I’ve played anywhere in the world.

“It’s a true links course. It’s going to be like playing Scottish links golf.”

The vistas from Shinnecock’s clubhouse and the clubhouse at Muirfield, Scotland, are much the same: fairways wending between heaving sand dunes and waving sea grasses.

Combined with the chilly drizzle, a decided British atmosphere pervaded the practice rounds. Sweaters rather than shorts were the garb of choice.

The rains have softened and slowed both fairways and greens. Slower greens and wet conditions, of course, are common fare to European players.

In many cases, slopes around the greens have been shorn of heavy rough, allowing errant shots to run well off the green, placing greater emphasis on players’ short-game skills - still another condition more common to Europe than the United States.

All of which should work to the benefit of Faldo, who scored an American tour triumph earlier this season to add to a collection that includes two Masters and three British Opens.

Bernhard Langer of Germany, a two-time Masters winner, has played well in Europe this year, as has Colin Montgomerie of Scotland, a frequent contender in major events and a loser of the Open in a playoff in 1994.

As for a favorite, try Norman. Coming off a 6-week break from competition, the Australian ace won two weeks ago and let another title slip away with a 71st hole lapse last week.

Els, the powerful young South African, won in Dallas last month and must be given a place among those most likely to succeed.

 
Tags: golf

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