Last Wednesday afternoon Oakland Hills was transformed from the
Monster into a home suitable for the Loch Ness Monster. In less
than two hours, a violent thunderstorm dumped more than 2 1/2
inches of rain on the course, washing out bunkers and creating a
three-foot-deep lake across the 8th fairway. Parts of the 12th
and 16th holes were also flooded. Hardest hit was a greenside
bunker at the 18th hole, the sides of which caved in during the
torrent. The damage was so severe that it appeared there was no
way the first round could go off the next morning at 7, as
scheduled. But it did, and other than a few squishy spots, it
was hard to tell that it had rained at all.
Take a bow, Steve Glossinger. The Oakland Hills superintendent
and his crew of 70 worked until midnight, got back after it at
4:30 a.m. and put the mighty South Course together again.
Glossinger had plenty of help. Fire engines from neighboring
communities and 15 rented pumps were brought in and sucked out
about 350 gallons of water a minute. And course superintendents
from all over the area volunteered their services and were put
to work salvaging fairways and rebuilding bunkers.
Glossinger's work was honored on Saturday evening during a
ceremony near the bunker at the 18th, which his crew had rebuilt
overnight. It was named Glossinger's Bunker, and a plaque was
unveiled that read: "[Donald] Ross has 139 bunkers. Glossinger
now has 1."
NBC learned last week what the players have known for a long
time: Johnny Miller's candor can cut both ways. In comments to
USA Today Miller, while taking potshots at his network's chief
rival in golf coverage, CBS, skewered two institutions NBC has
been carefully courting, the Augusta National Golf Club and the
PGA of America. To plug the Open, the showcase of NBC's golf
coverage, Miller belittled CBS's two majors, the Masters and the
PGA. The PGA, he said, had been "left in the wake" of the other
three majors. That comment no doubt had the suits at NBC
squirming because the PGA controls the Ryder Cup, NBC's
second-most-important golf property.
But it was Miller's unfiltered, unflattering comments about the
Masters that really upset his bosses. "The Masters has no
business being up there with the Open," he was quoted as saying.
"It's up there because people have a love affair with flowers
and springtime. There's no U.S. title at stake." It is no secret
that NBC covets the Masters, which has been working under a
year-to-year contract with CBS since 1956 and is always the
highest-rated tournament of the season. Miller's dig did not go
unnoticed by the lords of Augusta, who, as is their custom on
most matters, declined comment. Nevertheless, it's sure to
undermine NBC's quiet campaign to woo them.
The brass at NBC quickly distanced themselves from their star
analyst. "Johnny's magic comes from the fact that there is no
governor," said network sports president Dick Ebersol, echoing
praise he has directed toward Miller in the past. But then he
added, "I don't happen to agree with him on this one."
JACK WILL BE BACK
The rousing reception 56-year-old Jack Nicklaus received after
finishing 27th at Oakland Hills was right up there with the
emotional farewell accorded Arnold Palmer in the '94 U.S. Open
at Oakmont in Pittsburgh, but Nicklaus is a sure thing to play
in at least one more national championship.
Nicklaus could very well play his way into another Open by
winning the U.S. Senior Open. If he fails, the USGA is likely to
give him one more exemption--he already has been given four, one
less than Arnie received--for the 2000 Open, which will be
played at Pebble Beach, Nicklaus's favorite course. "If they
want to give me an exemption for Pebble Beach, that would be
very nice," he says. "My time has probably come and gone. It's
just taken me a few years to finally be able to say it."
Nicklaus was so encouraged by his play at Oakland Hills--it was
his best showing in an Open since 1986--that he has decided to
play in next month's British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes,
England, thereby extending his streak of consecutive majors to
Nothing has come easy for David Berganio, the former U.S. Public
Links champ who last week turned up on the U.S. Open leader
board before drifting to 16th place.
In 1991, the year he won the Publinx and was the second-ranked
amateur in the country behind Phil Mickelson, Berganio wasn't
given a spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team. The snub still bothers
him. "I was a West Coast boy with an ethnic background,"
Berganio says. "I wasn't the WASP they [USGA officials, who
select the team] were looking for. I cried about it. It was
USGA executive director David Fay says the slight had nothing to
do with Berganio's Mexican-American heritage and everything to
do with his behavior on the golf course. Berganio had a rep for
throwing clubs, cursing errant shots and fighting with
officials. His image wasn't enhanced when he listed "fast cars
and women" as other interests on a USGA questionnaire.
Berganio made sure he wouldn't be passed up again in 1993 by
winning a second Publinx. This time the USGA relented and put
him on the Walker Cup team. "The thing is, once I got on the
team and met [11-time Walker Cupper] Jay Sigel, he said, 'They
made you out to be something that you're not,'" Berganio says.
Berganio grew up in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley, in the
projects of Pacoima. His father left home when Berganio was a
child, and Berganio remembers the first and the 15th being the
best days of the month because they were when his mother
received the family's food stamps. A priest got him off the
streets and into golf. After junior college Berganio went to
Arizona on a partial scholarship, played on a team that included
Jim Furyk and competed against Mickelson, David Duval and Justin
Leonard--all of whom have made it to the Tour. Berganio is still
grinding on the Nike tour.
"My time will come," Berganio says. "In the long run, growing up
the way I did will help me out. Being from the streets made me
tougher. That's what you need out here. These kids are mentally
tough, whether they're rich or not."
Neal Lancaster is the only man ever to shoot 29 for nine holes
at the Open, and now he has done it twice. Lancaster set the
mark last year in the final round at Shinnecock Hills and
equaled it on the treacherous back nine at Oakland Hills last
Friday. Standing on the 11th tee, Lancaster was seven over for
the tournament, three over for the day, and looking for the
nearest exit. Even his father, Charles, and friends from
Smithfield, N.C., had given up on him and were headed home.
"Basically I was not into it at all," Lancaster said. "I was
kind of going, Well, let's get this thing over with."
That's when the hole started getting in the way of Lancaster's
ball. He went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie, and then parred
in, missing an eight-footer for 2 at the par-3 17th but sliding
in a four-footer for par at the 18th. "It was the same putt I
had last year for 29," Lancaster says, "but I really wanted that
28. I wanted to make that putt on 17 to break my own record."
THE SHORT GAME
The USGA fooled the experts by awarding the 2001 Open to
Southern Hills in Tulsa. Bethpage, a public course on Long
Island, and Merion, a private club near Philadelphia, had been
considered the front-runners.... Bill Murchison, the Nike tour
player who sometimes travels to tournaments with all eight of
his children, confirms that his wife is expecting. "We'll just
stop now and have a baseball team," he says.... The medal for
the Open's low amateur went to Randy Leen, a 19-year-old junior
at Indiana, who finished at 291, two strokes ahead of Trip
Kuehne, 23, the runner-up to Tiger Woods at the '94 U.S.
Amateur. Woods was third, at 294.
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN A sudden deluge almost swamped the first round of the U.S. Open. [Workers with pump standing in water on golf course at Oakland Hills Country Club]
COLOR PHOTO: RICK STEWART The USGA felt Berganio had a big game but a short fuse. [David Berganio]