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Trivia, stats in honor of U.S. Open

HAL LENOBEL
Contributing Columnist
golf@lbknews.com

This is the week of the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. One thought seems to pervade a great deal of thought and that is the following: Is Tiger Woods back? If so, is he all the way back? If so, are we sure of it? If we are sure of it, are we really sure? Sunday evening will provide us with the answer.

 

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Curtis Strange, a two-time winner of the U.S. Open, has come up with some interesting thoughts on the Open as it is played today. Strange would like to know what has happened to the toughest test in golf, an examination that has encompassed all parts of the game. That is not true of the Open today.

In 1988 when Strange won the title, he claims the player had to hit his drive straight on a string or else play out of thick rough, which wasn’t preferable in approaching rock hard greens. According to Strange, that challenge doesn’t exist anymore. Driving, he says, has become a priority. If they grow the rough so that the player can easily hit out and reach the green, the original challenge is gone. Now the U.S. Open has become the Milwaukee Open, says Strange, with no disrespect to Milwaukee. Do you think he is right?

 

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I have been reading a great deal about the distance Brandon Hagy hits a ball. Hagy is a sophomore at the University of California. Playing at Riviera, teammate Pace Johnson smoked a tee shot uphill on the 475 18th hole. He had 165 yards left to the green.

As Johnson walked to his ball, he could only shake his head. Sixty yards up the fairway, in another zip code, was Hagy’s ball. Hagy proceeded to hit a sand wedge into the green. Hagy is 5 foot-11 inches and weighs 170 pounds. He somehow creates angles and speed. I can’t wait for him to turn pro.

 

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With Tiger Woods’ victory at the Memorial, he ties Jack Nicklaus with 73 career PGA Tour titles. How does that stack up, bearing in mind the following totals?

 

Nicklaus            Woods

Playoff wins            11            11

One-stroke wins            19            16

Match play wins            1            3

Money won in millions            $2.38            $66.32

Age at 73rd win            46            36

 

Bear in mind that Sam Snead was 43 when he won his 73rd title.

 

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The Olympic Club has been called the home of the underdog. Here is proof:

• 1955 U.S. Open: Jack Fleck, who had been an Iowa club pro, denied Ben Hogan his fifth Open title, beating him 69-72 in a playoff after they had tied at 7 over 287. “I was nobody,” Fleck said after one of golf’s greatest upsets.

• 1966 U.S. Open: Down 7 strokes with nine holes to play, Billy Casper rallied to tie fellow Hall of Famer Arnold Palmer at 2 under 278 and beat him in a playoff the next day 69-73. It was Palmer’s third Open playoff loss.

• 1987 U.S. Open: Scott Simpson beat Hall of Famer Tom Watson by one stroke.

• 1993 U.S. Open: Jim Gallagher Jr., shot 7 under 277 and won by a stroke over a foursome that included Hall of Famer Greg Norman.

• 1994 U.S. Open: Mark McCumber shot 10 under 274 and defeated two-time major winner Fuzzy Zoeller in a sudden death playoff.

• 1998 U.S. Open: Lee Janzen won his second Open, again outdueling Hall of Famer Payne Stewart. Janzen shot par 280 and won by one stroke.

 

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