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No Thanks, Sport, We Have No Further Questions

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Tiger Woods didn’t exactly distinguish himself during his four-over 74 Thursday at the U.S. Open, an opening round that included two double bogeys, a tee shot in the water on No. 18 and a brisk walk past several dozen reporters waiting for him afterward.

However, Woods did answer a few questions from a pool reporter in the locker room. It was neither a lengthy nor a revealing session.

Here is a short sampling:

Question: Can you give us [your] birdies and bogeys?

Answer: No. It is too many.

Q: What is going through your mind right now?

A: You don’t want to know.

Q: What are you going to do right now?

A: I don’t know.

Q: I mean, do you plan to hit balls or . . .

A: I don’t know.

Q: Do you feel like [there] has been something in your swing that . . .

A: I don’t know.

Q: Do you plan to talk to [Coach Butch Harmon] tonight?

A: I don’t know. Is that it?

That’s it, all right. The general public probably doesn’t care that Woods all but dismissed the media. But it should be pointed out that Greg Norman spent more than an hour in a news conference after the 1996 Masters, when he had just performed the greatest collapse in the history of a major golf tournament.

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Norman said at the time it was his responsibility as a sportsman. Woods was Sports Illustrated’s 1996 sportsman of the year. He just fell off last year’s pace.

EARLY BIRD

Steve Hart was shaving at 6:15 a.m. Thursday when the phone rang. Hart wasn’t going to answer the phone, but since he was the first alternate for the U.S. Open he did.

A voice on the telephone asked if he could make a 7 a.m. tee time.

Hart thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. Brad Bryant had to withdraw because of flu and Hart was in the field, even if it was quite unexpected.

“I was the only one at my friend’s house, where I was staying,” he said. “If I was further away than three miles, I wouldn’t have made it. I tell you, the toothpaste was flying . . . and I cut myself shaving.”

He hit 10 golf balls on the range, but didn’t have time on the putting green.

As it turned out, Hart wound up hitting the first ball in the Open, playing in the first group with Jim McGovern and Mike Brisky. Hart parred the first hole and finished with a 74.

A SUNKEN SHARK?

He may have been one of the pretournament favorites, but after one round Norman is 10 shots behind leader Colin Montgomerie.

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Norman, who bogeyed four of the first six holes and five of the first 10, is not suffering from a lack of confidence.

“On the back nine, I got back in sync,” he said. “In this tournament and on this golf course, you have to have a lot of patience. Absolutely, I’m a long way from being out of it.”

Maybe. Norman’s 75 is his worst first-round score in an Open since he shot 76 in his Open debut in 1979 at Inverness.

Norman twice has finished second in the Open. He lost to Fuzzy Zoeller in a playoff in 1984 at Winged Foot, and Corey Pavin beat him by two shots at Shinnecock Hills in 1995.

BURP

Only nine players in the field of 156 broke par on opening day at Congressional, and Phil Mickelson wasn’t one of them.

In fact, after shooting a 75, Mickelson felt fortunate to keep his score that low.

“This course will eat you up,” he said.

THAT’S ‘D-U-H’

David Ogrin, who shot 70, was asked the secret to handling Congressional.

“Drive it long and drive it straight--Duh!” he said.

BILLY THE KIDDER

After he shot a 75, Billy Andrade said it was all part of his plan: “I’m giving some other guys a chance.”

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SHORTS STUFF

For what it’s worth, caddies at Congressional are allowed to wear shorts for the first time at the U.S. Open. It’s a heat thing, not a fashion thing.

FATHERS AND SONS

Impress your friends with this trivia: Yes, Jack and Gary Nicklaus are the first father-and-son team to play in the same U.S. Open since Gary and Wayne Player in 1982, but there have been two others at the Open.

--Joe Kirkwood and Joe Kirkwood Jr. in 1948 and Tom Anderson and his two sons, Tom Jr. and Willie, in 1903.

TIGER’S TRAIL

Woods, whose first ad campaign mentioned golf courses he couldn’t play on, found one Wednesday--Congressional.

Woods was ordered off the course in his practice round when the USGA discovered he was playing the back nine without permission. Tom Meeks, the USGA’s director of rules and competition, caught up with Woods on the 13th hole and asked him to leave. Meeks said Woods was not very happy about it.

Woods had been scheduled to begin at No. 1 at 7:45 a.m. with John Daly and Zoeller, but started at No. 10 instead so he could get away from his typically large gallery.

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The problem was that there were maintenance crews on the course, and USGA policy dictates that no player be allowed to play while work is being completed.

HERE’S JOHNNY

Johnny Miller turned 50 in April, which makes him eligible to play the Senior PGA Tour, but he’s not exactly warming up the golf cart.

“I’m not a golfaholic,” Miller said. “I did my golfaholic period.”

Miller said he will play a limited schedule the rest of the year, probably only three official events.

He said his senior tour debut will be July 25-27 in the Franklin Quest Championship at Park City, Utah. Miller also plans to play Oct. 10-12 at the Transamerica in Napa and Oct. 31-Nov. 2 in the Ralphs Senior Classic at Wilshire Country Club.

THE FROG THEORY

He started playing golf when he was 10, so Nicklaus can’t identify personally with Woods’ starting out on the course at age 2.

Nicklaus talked about his philosophy on starting kids playing golf.

“When they have an attention span that they can take instruction,” Nicklaus said. “I’ve always defined that as when they can play three holes without chasing a frog. And that’s about an hour.”

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Nicklaus pointed out that Woods was not a typical toddler.

“I mean, how many fathers start their kids out in something at age 1 or 2 or 3 or whatever it is, when they really have no business doing that and they become what he’s become?” Nicklaus said.

“Not many. Most fathers start the kids out and burn the kid out by the time they’re 12 [and] they don’t want to see their father or the game anymore.

“And here he’s gone in the other direction. He’s thrived and lived on that.”

LADY TIGER?

Seven months after turning pro and signing a $1.3-million endorsement deal, 20-year-old Kelli Kuehne will play her first LPGA Tour event as a pro, the $600,000 Edina Realty Classic, beginning today.

Kuehne missed the LPGA qualifying school by two months because of the timing of turning pro, but her entry in the women’s professional field has drawn a lot of interest.

First, there’s the matter of her endorsement deal with Nike, which is the highest for any LPGA rookie. Kuehne is a two-time U.S. Amateur champion and won the British Women’s Amateur last summer, but there were rumblings among LPGA veterans unhappy that a player without a tour card could receive such a deal.

Kuehne has been associated with Woods since their junior golf days and they have even been romantically linked-- incorrectly--by some English tabloid newspapers.

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“Its flattering to hear people compare us,” Kuehne said. ‘It doesn’t bother me one bit.

“Our careers have paralleled, but it’s hard to compare us because Tiger is the new version of Arnold Palmer. [Palmer] revolutionized golf and Tiger’s doing it in a new way.”

Kuehne is limited to four sponsors’ exemptions for LPGA tournaments this year and already has accepted a USGA invitation to the U.S. Women’s Open next month at Pumpkin Ridge, Ore.

In August, Kuehne will be at qualifying school--if she doesn’t win a tournament before then.

PLAYING THROUGH

The sixth UCLA Water Polo Scholarship tournament will be held Monday at Braemar Country Club in Tarzana. Proceeds go directly to scholarships for the two-time defending NCAA champion Bruins.

Entry fee is $175 per golfer, which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, or $40 for dinner only. Information: (310) 206-6455 or (310) 206-0362.

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