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Monday, June 2, 2008

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The Contest

by Ken Klavon   USGA

Some of the USGA staff has moved onto San Diego. I'll be heading out tomorrow to prepare for the contest Friday, which features an eclectic foursome in Matt Lauer, Tony Romo, Justin Timberlake and John Atkinson, the contest winner.

For those who don't know, the USGA (in collaboration with Golf Digest and NBC) is putting the four in a pressure-cooker of a situation. They're all going to see if they can break 100 on a U.S. Open setup. This, of course, all stemmed from comments Tiger Woods made last year when someone asked him about Torrey Pines. Woods casually mentioned that someone with an 8 handicap couldn't break 100 if presented with U.S. Open conditions (setup, gallery and TV cameras). The gallery will be limited.

Now, that said, the foursome will have an opportunity to play one practice round. That takes place tomorrow (Thursday). Being on the course a dozen times or so this year, I can confidently say they are facing one tough challenge.

If, for instance, they play from the back tee on No. 13, they're going to need to wallop the ball to carry the expansive canyon below. The carry is anywhere from 220-240 yards, depending on whom you talk to. Examining the view from that tee a couple weeks ago with Mike Davis, who has a major say in the Open setup for the USGA, it was absolutely breath-taking. Davis said the carry was closer to 240 yards. Now, if they happen to get a stiff wind off the Pacific Ocean, that will certainly help. If instead the wind switches directions, their balls will be living with the rattlesnakes that call the canyon home.

Interesting notes about that 13th tee. It's obviously new to the course. No, the Buick Invitational did not use it. On one of my visits, I was told that a chained-link fence was installed to keep players off it after Phil Mickelson had been found practicing from the location. Officials figured that if players caught a glimpse of Mickelson playing from it, they might try to do the same.

In any event, we'll cover it Friday but probably won't give away the ending since NBC will be airing it before the final round.


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