Simply Breaking 80 Par for This Course

Sam Snead once said there were only two things he feared on a golf course--lightning and Ben Hogan.

It's the great untold story of golf--the danger of walking under trees or in open pastureland under thunder clouds with what amounts to 14 lightning rods in a bag by your side and metal cleats on your feet.

About 15 years ago at a Western Open, a lightning bolt struck the threesome of Lee Trevino, Bobby Nichols and Jerry Heard. Heard, who had already won a Colonial and four other tournaments, was never the same again, winning only once the rest of his career. Trevino traces his bad back to that incident, and Nichols was treated for irregular heartbeat for some time after as his career, too, had stalled.

Sudden death on a golf course is supposed to refer only to extra holes played to determine a winner. Sudden death for one spectator came in the opening round Thursday when lightning struck a tree on the 11th fairway. Golfers were spared, but five other spectators--six in all--were felled by the bolts, which came in clusters, causing players and public to streak in some panic for cover.

It was a final indignity visited on the field by Hazeltine, which had already scattered the flower of American golf without the intervention of nature.

Some courses you attack. Others, you just defend yourself against.

Hazeltine is the Jack Dempsey of golf courses. It fights you out of a crouch. It swarms. Like Fritzie Zivic, it hits on the break. It's unfair. I like that in a golf course.

If you're as sick to death of birdie golf as I am, if you're tired of scores in the low 60s, if you're bored to tears with guys reaching par-fives in two, you may want to come up here and get in on a golf course that doesn't just lie there and invite a good butt-kicking but instead puts up its dukes and fights back.

Come up and see these guys forced to play the game as you and I play it--eights on par-fours, balls in the water, second shots where you can't see the green--we get those all the time, but the pros think someone should be prosecuted.

The best golfers in the world are having a terrible time breaking 80 up here.

The 16th hole at Hazeltine is a gorgeous hunk of real estate. Lakefront property with a creek meandering through it, trees on both sides, lush green grass. It would be a great place for a condo. You might want to bring your bathing suit. A fishing pole. In the winter, you could go ice skating.

They put it to the worst land use you can think of. They made a golf hole out of it. They like to think of it as a par-four.

Hah!

This very stretch of land used to be a par-three. Sort of. Bob Rosburg, who has always been able to restrain his enthusiasm when talking about golf holes, once described it as "the only par-three in the world that's a dogleg."

Well, they changed it to a par-four. Now it's the only golf hole in the world that's an unplayable lie--off the tee.

It's not long--384 yards. That's two good five-irons for the players of today. Trouble is, it's got this finger of water traversing the hole about 220 yards out. It behooves you to carry this. Anyway, if the wind's blowing in your face, or the fairways are soft, a five-iron might not even get you off the tee.

One hundred fifty-six of the world's best golfers came upon No. 16 in the course of the first round of the U.S. Open Thursday. It was a little bit like lemmings reaching the cliffs. They went down faster than shot buffalo. The air was thick with curses, flying clubs, kicked ball washers, gnashed teeth.

This golf course is a wall-to-wall hall of horrors, anyway. The first guy who teed off Thursday morning, a 44-year-old pro named Terry Dear, promptly became Terry Dammit. He opened his U.S. Open with a double bogey. He ended his front nine with a triple bogey. His playing partners, Brad Sherfy and Jeb Stuart, opened with a double bogey and a bogey, respectively. Hazeltine left its calling card early.

Welcome to the U.S. Open in the land of 10,000 lakes.

"Are all of them on this course?" one player wanted to know.

It was an abattoir. A pro named Louie Garcia from Camarillo started the back nine 6-6-6.

"There'll be several rounds in the 90s," no less an observer than Jack Nicklaus himself had predicted. Greg Norman had three sixes and three fives on his front nine.

Billy Andrade, who came here on the heels of two consecutive tour victories, reached No. 16 Thursday with the kind of round that made his exchange with the golf course look like Dempsey-Firpo. It was a slugfest. "He's up! He's-down!" A "Rocky" movie with nine-irons.

Not many golf courses put up this kind of struggle. Andrade had--get this!--seven birdies, four bogeys, one triple bogey and one quadruple bogey. Now, that's a round of golf!

Quadruple bogeys are quite common in the 50-and-over flight at Saticoy. They are less common on tour. The pros call them "quads," "snowmen," and worse.

Andrade had his first eight on the 11th hole. But that's a par-five. He arrived at 16 still playing par golf in spite of his wild runaway ride--like a man on the back of an angry tiger.

He teed off with a two-iron. It faded right--into a swamp where the creek emptied into the lake. He chipped out sideways. He had 165 yards to the green. He hit a seven-iron. It flew over the green and into the water at the back. He took a drop, scraped it to the hole, three-putted. Ocho. A quad.

They call 16 the "signature hole" at Hazeltine. Translation: Protect yourself at all times. If it moves, shoot it.

Actually, Hazeltine has 18 signature holes. If it was human, they'd hang it. The Bermuda Triangle of golf scores.

Honk if you love Hazeltine.

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