It's Open season on Baltusrol: 44 hit par or better


SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- What is this, the Greater Milwaukee Open?

A guy who couldn't even beat former Vice President Dan Quayle in a pro-am last month is one of the leaders.

Eighteen players, including an amateur, bust par.

And the rough around the course is so short, golf balls and other assorted objects -- such as 28,000 spectators -- can actually be found without the aid of a caddie.

The 93rd U.S. Open on the 7,116-yard, par-70 Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club could end up being awfully strange.

Yesterday's first round was weird enough, with 44 players at par or better.

Scott Hoch, Craig Parry and Joey Sindelar, not exactly a who's who list of golfing greats, topped the leader board at 4-under 66.

Hoch -- forever known as the guy who missed a 2 1/2 -foot putt to blow the 1989 Masters -- was practicing so badly earlier this week, he begged his family to stay away.

Parry, a diminutive Australian with forearms the size of Popeye's, came into the tournament on a reverse roll, missing two straight cuts.

And Sindelar is the pro who was beaten by his playing partner, Quayle, 72-76, at last month's Kemper Open.

"The translation is Dan Quayle would be leading the U.S. Open," Sindelar said.

"It seems very clear."

Why not?

On a warm day with light winds and forgiving greens, the world's best golfers bashed Baltusrol.

And the course didn't bash back.

The average score of 72.282 was the lowest in U.S. Open history.

"For a classic, tough test of golf, this is as good as it gets," Sindelar said.

But Baltusrol will have its revenge. Count on it.

"I consider the course playing maybe as easy as it's going to get," said Fred Couples, tied with 1968 Open champion Raymond Floyd and five others at 2-under 68. "The greens will harden up."

And the scores will inflate.

Until then, stand back and watch the best players rip apart the Open.

Lee Janzen and Craig Stadler finished at 3-under 67.

For Janzen, it was just business as usual.

For Stadler, it was a revelation. He was using only his third new putter in 15 years.

What happened to the last one?

"The old one is out of commission," he said. "It didn't float too well."

Reigning U.S. amateur champion Justin Leonard was among a group of six at 1-under 69.

Among those in the 26-player jam at par 70 were four-time Open champion Jack Nicklaus, 1982 champion Tom Watson, 1987 champion Scott Simpson, 1991 champion Payne Stewart and Nick Faldo, a former Masters and British Open champion on a mission to complete a personal Grand Slam.

Reigning Open champion Tom Kite faltered to 5-over 75 and will have to hustle to survive today's cut.

Hoch isn't even sure he's going to be sticking around.

And he's 4-under.

"I equate my game to a duck," he said.

"On the surface, he looks like he's fine. But underneath, he is paddling like heck just to keep up."

Hoch, who underwent shoulder surgery in February 1992, is just now rebuilding his game. He took a lesson Monday, said "it was the worst I ever played" and advised friends and family to stay out of New Jersey because "I'm coming home early."

But yesterday morning, playing with the second group, Hoch performed consistently and took the lead before lunch.

"When I'm playing my normal game, the Open should be good for me," he said.

Parry's precise game also may be suited for the Open, even though the event has not been won by a foreign-born player since 1981.

"I probably compete better in major championships than I do in other tournaments," said Parry, the leader after three rounds at the 1992 Masters.

Baltusrol also may play right into his hands.

"Scoring is perfect out there," he said.

"I don't think the rough is what you would think of as normal U.S. Open rough. You have more of a chance to run the ball into the greens. It gives you options, and it's very good."

Sindelar agrees. Four-under through 16, he had a chance to break away from the pack on the final two holes, the only par 5s on the course.

But he got nervous.

"The environment got to me," he said. "Yeah, I had these visions out there. I had the vision of not being able to see the fairway."

At least he didn't have to worry about losing to his playing partner. Last month at the Kemper at Avenel in Potomac, Md., Sindelar had to grind out a round with the former Vice President.

OK, so he spotted Quayle the blue tees for the whites. And, he was just practicing.

But how could he lose to an amateur who fidgeted and constantly checked the wrinkles in his clothes?

"I said, 'Gee, Dan, if you're going to go the next level, you'd better lighten up.' " Sindelar said.

This weekend, Sindelar hopes to follow his own advice.

Lighten up. And hit away.

It's only the Open.

U.S. Open


The leaders . . .

Scott Hoch.. ... .. .. .. .. ..33-33-66

Joey Sindelar.. .. .. .. .. .. 34-32-66

Craig Parry.. .. .. .. .. .. ..32-34-66

. . and selected followers

Lee Janzen.. .. .. .. .. .. .. 32-35-67

Craig Stadler .. .. .. .. .. ..33-34-67

Mike Smith.. .. .. .. .. .. .. 33-35-68

Corey Pavin.. .. .. .. .. .. ..35-33-68

Fred Couples.. .. .. .. .. ... 34-34-68

Robert Wrenn .. .. .. .. .. .. 34-34-68

Blaine McCallister.. .. .. .. 33-35-68

Rocco Mediate .. .. .. .. ... 33-35-68

Raymond Floyd .. .. .. .. .. ..36-32-68

Jeff Maggert .. .. .. .. .. .. 34-35-69

Fred Funk .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 32-38-70

Jack Nicklaus .. .. .. .. .. ..33-37-70

Nick Faldo .. .. .. .. .. .. ..35-35-70

Complete scores: 11D

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