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No. 7 certainly wasn't heaven

Published June 20, 2004

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - Shinnecock's par-3 seventh hole bordered on unplayable Saturday. The "Redan" hole, which features a green that tilts from front to back and toward the left, was nearly impossible to hit. Even keeping putts on the green was difficult.

"Seven is unplayable so I guess the majority of the field is going to make 4 there, which is ridiculous," said Ernie Els, who made 4, one of 27 bogeys. There also were three double bogeys and just one birdie.

USGA officials knew the hole would present problems and ordered the Shinnecock maintenance staff not to roll the green after Tuesday. For some reason, the green got rolled Saturday morning.

"The instructions were not to roll it," said Walter Driver, who heads the USGA's championship committee. "It was very difficult and frankly got more difficult as the day wore on because the wind got stronger from right to left and down the slope. ... The wind was drying it out, they were putting downwind, downhill, downgrain, downworld. ... and it was very difficult to stop those putts."

BREAK UP SOUTH AFRICA: Three South Africans are among the top six, but it was the least known who shot the best score at Shinnecock.

Tim Clark, 28, shot 4-under-par 66, one of just three scores under par, and moved into a tie for sixth, four behind countryman Retief Goosen, the 2001 U.S. Open champion. Els, also of South Africa, has two U.S. Open titles and was two behind Goosen.

"I've been playing so well, I don't feel I'm going to lose my swing overnight," said Clark, who finished third at last year's PGA Championship and has three top-10s this year on the PGA Tour. He has one victory on the PGA European Tour. "I really feel I can come out. You never know, maybe an even round will be good enough. The course is going to toughen up, the wind is going to get up, I'm hoping for that."

TOUGH DAY: J.J. Henry's scorecard looked like that of a weekend warrior. He had one par in a round of 86. He made three birdies, but also had a triple bogey, four double bogeys and eight bogeys. His playing partner, Padraig Harrington, didn't have a birdie but still beat Henry by 10.

NO SHINNECOCK FAN: Most players have raved about Shinnecock Hills. Not Scott Hoch. And that's hardly a surprise. Never a fan of links golf, Hoch has often skipped the British Open, despite being exempt for the championship. He has played the tournament just five times. This is Hoch's 24th U.S. Open.

"This is probably the least favorite of all the U.S. Open courses I've ever played," Hoch said. "This fits right in with the other British Open courses I've played."

Hoch once referred to the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, as a pasture and said he disdains courses that require a low ball flight. And 11-time PGA Tour winner, Hoch, 48, was at 8-over 218 through three rounds.

AROUND SHINNECOCK: Fred Funk, who turned 48 last week, would be the oldest Open champion with a victory. Hale Irwin was 45 when he won in 1990. The oldest winner of a major is Julius Boros, who was 48 years, 140 days, when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.

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