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Koch has long day, 'great experience'

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 16, 2001


TULSA, Okla. -- The day began in the wee hours, before the sun had even come up. Gary Koch arrived at Southern Hills Country Club on Friday before 6. Nine hours later, after playing five holes to complete the first round of the U.S. Open and another 18 holes of the second round, the day was far from complete.

"It's fixin' to get real long," he said.

Within an hour, Koch was back in the TV tower, doing analyst work for NBC and ESPN. He shot rounds of 75 and 72 to complete 36 holes at 7 over par. He was in danger of missing the cut, which will be determined this morning. It was projected to come at 6 over par.

"I'd like to have done better, but that's the golfer in me," said Koch, 48, a six-time PGA Tour winner from Tampa who advanced to the Open through local and sectional qualifying. "I didn't embarrass myself, so that's a good thing. I certainly have discovered some areas of my game that still need work. Maybe that's a positive as well.

"Overall, it's a great experience. This is probably the greatest event in golf in our country. I got a chance to play. And now I'll get a chance to talk all about it. It's the best of both worlds."

AZINGER RALLIES: Finishing in near darkness, Paul Azinger could be excused if he couldn't quite read the line on his final putt on the 18th green. It didn't go in, and he made bogey, but it hardly ruined the day. Azinger hit the previous 16 greens in regulation, not bad for a U.S. Open. And after an opening-round 74, he bounced back with 67, the third-best score of the round.

"I'm right back in it," said Azinger, who finished second to Tiger Woods two weeks ago at the Memorial. "All you want to do is get in contention and give yourself a chance. I told my wife (Toni) I was going to hit it good today. And I did."

Azinger, from Bradenton, has made eight consecutive cuts in major championships, trailing Woods (20), Jim Furyk (10) and David Duval (nine).

PETROVIC SITTING PRETTY: New Port Richey's Tim Petrovic appears to be in good shape to make the cut at his first U.S. Open. Petrovic, the medalist at local and sectional qualifiers, shot 71 in the second round to complete 36 holes at 145, 5 over par.

"I figured I had to make a birdie on one of the last two holes, and it wasn't going to be on 18; nobody's birdieing that hole," he said. "So I buried a 10-footer on 17. One of the best putts I hit all day."

FEAR OF LIGHTNING: Excuse Retief Goosen for being a bit squeamish during Thursday's weather problems. Goosen, from South Africa, was once struck by lightning on a golf course.

"I was 17 years old when it happened," said Goosen, whose second-round 70 put him at 136 and tied with Mark Brooks and J.L. Lewis. "I was playing golf with a friend of mine and it was raining and lightning around. We stopped, actually, waited until the storm passed and then we teed off.

"We were on our way, walking to the fairway and there were a couple of trees you have to walk past. The lightning hit the tree and me. So when I woke up, I was lying in the hospital, not knowing what's going on. ... The next moment you're there, the next moment you're not. I was one of the lucky ones to survive it."

TOUGH PAIRING: U.S. Amateur champion Jeff Quinney had a tough time in his first U.S. Open. He opened with 82, and had 73 in the second round. Being paired with Woods didn't help.

"He has that aura about him where you're really intimidated," Quinney said. "I think even the top guys in the world admit they're a little intimidated. ... I think it's only going to help in the years to come."

ETC: Sweden's Pierre Fulke withdrew Friday, citing the flu. He shot 76 in the first round. ... Clearwater's John Huston, playing his first tournament in two months, will miss the cut with scores of 75-76. ... Valrico's Pete Jordan also appears headed home, despite a second-round 70. He shot 77 in the opening round.

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