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Grooved bunkers at Memorial irk players
By TIMES WIRES
Published June 2, 2006
DUBLIN, Ohio - Steve Flesch was one of the few players who had no issues with the bunkers at the Memorial, and for good reason. He wasn't in any of them Thursday, which might explain why he was atop the leaderboard.
Flesch made sure he kept his ball in the lush grass of Muirfield Village, playing his best golf of the year to reach 6 under through 17 holes when the first round was suspended because of storms in the area.
Sean O'Hair made double bogey from a bunker on No. 3, then responded with four birdies on his next six holes. He saved par the next time he was in the sand, birdied the 18th and finished 5-under 67.
A large group at 69 included Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Davis Love, Fred Couples and Nick Price, most of whom had one thing in common - they could do without the furrows left behind by the gap-tooth rakes being used as an experiment this week.
"I don't like it at all," Price said. "It's a bit of pot luck, to be honest. You can get in there and have a perfect lie when it lands on top of a groove, then you can have another one that goes in the trough, and you've got no chance."
Love didn't bother stopping to talk, perhaps because he would have said something that offended tournament host Jack Nicklaus, who is not playing the Memorial for the first time in its 31-year history.
It was Nicklaus who decided late last week to snap off every other tine on the bunker rakes "to equalize the game" for shorter hitters.
PGA Tour rules official Slugger White said the only mistake might have been failing to alert the players ahead of time. And he stressed this was only a test, not a policy.
"Everyone is a little bit stubborn when it comes to change," he said. "We'll see how this plays out."
Mickelson, the most pragmatic of the bunch, was tied for the lead until hitting into a fairway bunker led to bogey on the 17th, and he failed to get up-and-down from short of the 18th for another bogey.
"Everybody has to play it," Mickelson said. "These bunkers are just a different variety than we're used to."
It was a different test, for sure, though the end of the round was all too familiar in a tournament where rain delays are the norm. Thirty players failed to finish their round and were to return at 8:30 a.m. Among them was big-hitting Floridian Bubba Watson, who was at 3 under after 13 holes.
Meantime, Kevin Hall's big day started a lot better than it ended. On the par-4 opening hole, the PGA Tour's first and only deaf player hit a 285-yard drive, a 185-yard approach and rolled in a 22-foot birdie putt.
It ended up being the 23-year-old former Big Ten medalist's only birdie. Six bogeys and double bogey left him at 79.
Philip Archer missed shooting the first 59 in PGA European Tour history when a 6-foot putt lipped out on the 18th hole in the first round at the Wales Open.
Colin Montgomerie rediscovered his putting touch to break out of a slump with a 63 on the 6,743-yard, par-69 Roman Road Course in Newport.
LPGA veteran Cindy Rarick was charged with driving while intoxicated and other violations during the Corning Classic last weekend. Police said Rarick, 47, who missed the cut, was arrested in downtown Corning, N.Y., late Saturday and charged with driving while intoxicated, driving with a blood alcohol content of more than .08 percent, refusal to submit to a breath test, operating without headlights and driving without a seat belt. She was released and is scheduled to appear in Corning City Court on June 22.