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Friday, June 6, 2008

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The Final Scores

by Ken Klavon   USGA

And the final contest scores are in. Story is forthcoming. All in all, it was a fun and interesting day. Mike Davis, who is in charge of the U.S. Open setup, learned that he has the rough about right for next week's championship. He said by watching Tony Romo's clubhead speed, he could decipher a lot. Romo has the swing of a pro. So said Fred Couples who took in part of the contest, walking inside the ropes. He said if you put him on the range next week with all the Open competitors, you wouldn't be able to see a difference. He's that good.

Romo, by the way, won the contest with an 84. He was 13 over. Except for a four-putt on the third hole, he was pretty consistent. "For me, it was like another tournament," said Romo about his nerves out of the chute. "There are a little nerves on the first tee, but athletically speaking, once you know you've practiced for the moment, it all goes away."

Justin Timberlake proved he had game. You can clearly see his competitive juices flow in the heat of the moment. Timberlake, the most fashionably dressed of the four, shot 98. He hammed it up a few times, but overall, he had the face of a Texas Hold 'Em player.

"I had a previous goal in mind that I didn't meet," said Timberlake. "That was pace of play ... and I wanted to shoot in the low 90s. It really is that hard. It tests your mind. You're really feeling it over par putts, birdies putts, pretty much over every shot."

Afterward, when it was confirmed he broke 100, his mom whooped it up, saying, "Tiger here we come. Get those pipes warmed up, because now you're coming to sing at one of Justin's concerts." Note: this was not a deal made with Tiger, she added. But one can hope.

Matt Lauer probably wishes he had the first four or five holes back. He started his day with a snap-hook off the tee. Lauer was 12 over through the first seven holes. He rallied, posting 100 on the mark. He needed to sink a 12-footer on No. 18 for par, which he did, raising his arm in triumph.

"It was one of the great thrills of my life," said Lauer. "I wish I could have played better, but a great thrill. ... If I would have played the first four or five holes differently, it would have been a different story."

Greg Norman, who caddied for Lauer, said he was nervous on the first tee. Coming off the first green, Norman walked up to me and said, "He's puckering his %$#! a little too tight." Hilarious.

Finally, there was John Atkinson. This guy prepared for his moment. A little while back he invited about 40-50 people out to Indian Creek Golf Course in Elkhorn, Neb. to emulate what he might see today, according to friend Steve Paup.

There are so many angles to his story that this blog would be endless. This is what you need to know: when he found out he won the contest, his swing coach came to his house for a lesson because it was raining so hard outside. In his basement, he's got a net that he hits ball into. Finally, he also has lung cancer, diagnosed on March 29, 2007.

There were 61 family and friends in the gallery watching him. He received the loudest ovation on the first tee. He clearly was moved when his 36-year-old brother, Kevin, took over the bag from Bob Rotella on the 18th hole. It brought John to tears. His three children made signs, telling him they loved him. Most of all, he had the time of his life. Butch Harmon, who caddied for Timberlake, said that he would remember every step as one of his greatest thrills of his life. Seemed that way afterward when Atkinson just gleamed.

Oh yeah, he shot 114. But who cares. "It was one tough golf course," said Atkinson. "It's been an unbelievable experience."


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