Nelson, Zoeller open charges too late U.S. Open notes


CHASKA, Minn. -- They were blasts from the Open past. But as things turned out as Hazeltine National Golf Club, Larry Nelson and Fuzzy Zoeller made their charges a little too late.

Nelson, who won the Open at Oakmont in 1983, started the day at 1-over par, seven shots off co-leaders Scott Simpson and Payne Stewart and finished tied with Fred Couples at 3-under 285 after a closing-round 68.

"When I made the putt at 13, I thought I really had a chance," said Nelson, who was 4-under for the championship and four shots behind Simpson at the time. "The way the course was BTC playing today, you almost had to work it out to make a bogey."

Nelson did just that on the next hole, when he missed the green on the 357-yard, par-4 14th, and failed to make par. He parred the last four holes for his best finish at the Open since he won it eight years ago.

For Zoeller, who finished fifth at 2-under-par 286, yesterday's round of 4 under was four shots better than any he had played during the tournament. His finish, which followed a pair of eighth-place endings two of the last three years, was also his best since he beat Greg Norman in a playoff at Winged Foot in 1984.

"It would have been nice to do this earlier in the week," Zoeller said. "But it showed me that I could play this game a little on a difficult golf course."

* Couples, who made an early charge before he put his tee shot in the water at No. 8, said that today's playoff should be pretty close.

"In a playoff, I would not imagine anybody winning by more than one or two," he said. "They are very compatible players."

Last year's playoff between Hale Irwin and Mike Donald was the first playoff to go more than 18 holes in Open history. The largest margin of victory was eight shots, by Zoeller over Norman.

* Arizona State senior Phil Mickelson, who earlier this year won the Northern Telecom Open, was the low amateur at the Open for the second straight time. But he was 10 shots worse than last year at Medinah, finishing 12-over-par 300. He was tied with Masters champion Ian Woosnam.

* Next year's Open will be played at Pebble Beach.

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