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Stewart Has His Ups and Downs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

So just how fast was that 18th green Friday at the U.S. Open?

It was like rolling marbles on the kitchen table. It was ice skating for golf balls. It needed a speed limit sign, not a flagstick.

With the pin cut in the upper half of the green and a slope from the hole that dropped a couple of octaves every inch, the 18th hole at the Olympic Club for the second round of the U.S. Open was one very sad song. And, well, what else?

Ask John Daly: “It’s not golf. If they want to have a major, let’s go to Disney World and play putt-putt. It’s ridiculous.”

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Ask Fred Couples: “I personally think it’s embarrassing.”

Ask Mark Carnevale: “It was Mickey Mouse.”

Ask Frank Nobilo: “You could conceivably play hockey there.”

And so it went for the second round of the Open at Olympic, where Payne Stewart bogeyed three of the last five holes, finished with a 71 and still held a one-shot lead over Bob Tway and Jeff Maggert heading into the weekend.

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It should be noted that Stewart bogeyed the finishing hole after he struck a pitching wedge and landed the ball eight feet from the hole. His birdie putt from just below pin high rolled within inches of the hole before finally coming to a stop 20 feet away.

Stewart wasn’t in exclusive company, although his comments about the pin placement were nearly as colorful as his wardrobe.

“Whenever you start seeing balls roll up to the hole and then roll back away from the hole, I think that is bordering on ridiculous,” he said.

What would the U.S. Open be without a little controversy, anyway? Everybody thought the 17th would be the place where the USGA got roasted for slimming it down to a par four. But that devilish pin placement on the 18th might be what this 98th Open becomes famous for, which is fine for those who appreciate the renown of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow or the iceberg that introduced itself to the Titanic.

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Consider the situation of Stewart, who was enjoying a four-shot lead through 13 holes despite an ensemble that could only have been put together by someone with a greatly developed sense of humor. Plaid, red and white, an explosion in a wallpaper factory, that was Stewart, who wound up bogeying the 14th when he missed the fairway and the green.

He also bogeyed the 17th and then came the big, bad 18th, the hole with the pin placement brought to you by the motion picture coming soon to a theater near you, “Armageddon.”

The thing was so bad that the USGA even offered an apology for it afterward.

“What happened today was not what we hoped would happen,” said David Fay, executive director of the USGA.

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Well, no it probably didn’t, unless the USGA likes seeing grown golfers rust their steel shafts with tears.

The round of the day was turned in by 1993 U.S. Open champion Janzen, whose 66 could have been a 64 if he somehow could have avoided a double bogey on No. 17 where he missed the fairway and then found a greenside bunker.

At least he wasn’t complaining about anything, which revealed a basic understanding of his personal geography.

“I came to the U.S. Open expecting nothing to be fair,” Janzen said.

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This is healthy because he was not disappointed.

Janzen is tied for fourth in a threesome at one-under 139 that includes amateur Matt Kuchar and journeyman Lee Porter. Carnevale is next at even-par 140 after his second-round 73 and three are tied at one-over 141--Joe Durant, Nick Price and Brad Faxon.

After two rounds, exactly six players have scores lower than par at Olympic. Tway’s round of 70 was topped off when he hit a wedge to one foot from the hole on 18. He thought that was kind of fortunate.

“Fortunately, I was so close, I didn’t have to worry about it,” he said.

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Maggert put in his second consecutive 69 and he even made par on 18. He said he is right where he wants to be after 36 holes.

“I just don’t come out here just to shoot a few good rounds and just kind of wait to see what happens,” he said. “I expect to play well and I expect to win. I expect to play well this weekend and if I don’t, I will be disappointed. But I like my chances.”

As for Couples, he has every right to be disappointed with his 75, basically because he bogeyed the last four holes on his way to a 40 on the back. Yet Couples managed to save most of his anger for the pin placement on No. 18.

“I’m a little less hot than I was a moment ago, but . . . to have a ball roll 15 feet backward. Daly had a put that rolled up, almost went in and rolled three feet back from the hole. Embarrassing. It’s such a great hole that I think if they had checked they would have realized that putts rolling backward is not what they want to do.”

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Fay seemed to agree. He said the USGA considered four days of pins on the front part of the green but decided against that option. So they went with the pin on the edge of the slope and the slide show was on.

Fay said the USGA took full responsibility and was sorry about it.

“We made the decision and it didn’t turn out the way we hoped,” he said.

And so what can you say about Day 2 at the U.S. Open? They got the ball rolling.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

U.S. OPEN

LEADERS

Payne Stewart: 66-71--137 -3

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Jeff Maggert: 69-69--138 -2

Bob Tway: 68-70--138 -2

Lee Porter: 72-67--139 -1

a-Matt Kuchar: 70-69--139 -1

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Lee Janzen: 73-66--139 -1

Mark Carnevale: 67-73--140 E

4 tied at 141 +1

OTHERS

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Nick Price: 73-68--141 +1

Tom Lehman: 68-75--143 +3

David Duval: 75-68--143 +3

Phil Mickelson: 71-73--144 +4

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Colin Montgomerie: 70-74--144 +4

John Daly: 69-75--144 +4

Ernie Els: 75-70--145 +5

Justin Leonard: 71-75--146 +6

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Tiger Woods: 74-72--146 +6

Mark O’Meara: 70-76--146 +6

Jack Nicklaus: 73-74--147 +7

Fred Couples: 72-75--147 +7

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