Because it is necessary to cram 156 golfers around the course on opening day of the U.S. Open, the first tee time at Baltusrol Golf Club yesterday was 7 a.m. That prompted ABC and ESPN commentator Peter Alliss to sniff, "It's not the genteel game of tennis where you arrive to play after lunch."
What made the remark thought-provoking, maybe even laughable, is, one, it is the first time in recorded history golf is indicated to be a grueling physical ordeal, and, two, about an hour later, John Lloyd was on the horn from London, where he will work as a match analyst at Wimbledon beginning Monday at 9 a.m. on HBO.
Lloyd, formerly England's No. 1 tennis player, has the task of carrying on for the late Arthur Ashe, who for years was the mainstay of the premium cable's coverage at Wimbledon.
Prediction: Lloyd will be a good one, in a short time cutting through the cliche-ridden goop a lot of commentators provide. ,, For instance:
"On the men's side, I have a list of eight players who can win it, starting with Michael Stich and followed by Stefan Edberg. I see that as the final. Then come Boris Becker, Peter Sampras, Goran Ivanisevic, [defending champ] Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Richard Krajcek."
Sure, they're the best players going today, but here's a guy willing to go out on a limb and attach a number to them while adding things like, "I don't think Ivan Lendl has a shot."
Lloyd was filled in on countrymen Alliss' estimate of what a "genteel" situation tennis players find themselves in, and he nearly gagged. See, John not only competed in singles, but actually had more international success in doubles and mixed doubles. His Wimbledons barely left time for 4 o'clock tea.
"One year, because of the rains," he recalled, "we didn't even get to play our second-round mixed match until Thursday of the second week. And that's the year we were in the final.
"Playing all three events, it was nothing to end up playing eight to 10 sets a day, the way play gets backed up there because of the weather. That's seven or so hours on the courts alone, plus an hour's practice you have to go through early just to get yourself going."
Asked about the chance of an Englishman's doing well at the Big W, which is a constant debate in the 10 or so London dailies, Lloyd answered, "I don't see us having any chance for at least the next 10 years." No hem-and-haw guy, he.
Lloyd continued, "I see the women's draw incredibly open because Steffi Graf is up there, but not playing that well, and Martina Navratilova's struggling, too.
"Maybe a Mary Joe Fernandez can come through. I loved her attitude at the French Open, where she lost the final, but you ask yourself, why didn't she believe in herself or try as hard before? Even Jennifer Capriati has a shot if she can sort out the problems she always seems to have."
Besides five hours of Wimbledon live each day next week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be a wrap-up show at 7 p.m. It's the first time HBO is going live.
* Because it has been on ESPN nearly every waking hour the past two days, ABC's five-hour telecasts of the U.S. Open tomorrow and Sunday (1-6 p.m.) will seem like highlight shows.
Plus, the network will be hard-pressed to top cable coverage because commentators Jim McKay, Brent Musburger, Peter Alliss et al always appear so much more relaxed working the preliminary rounds.
* WBAL Radio broadcasts of Maryland football this fall will be infinitely better with Channel 11's Gerry Sandusky joining play-by-play man Johnny Holliday. An added feature regarding Terps football is starting Sept. 4 at home against Virginia coach Mark Duffner will be on twice a week with Jeff Rimer, doing a half-hour review of Saturday's game Monday evenings and an hour's preview Thursday nights.
* Who can blame the LPGA for getting upset that during NBC's telecast of its championship from Bethesda last weekend it ran a lengthy tribute of commentator Johnny Miller's victory in the U.S. Open at Oakmont 20 years ago?
The Peacock often gives the impression it is being run by the Katzenjammer Kids. I mean, who else would attempt to make a star out of Ahmad Rashad?
Tonight's NBA doubleheader, or does it only seem like they're playing two games, goes at 9 from Chicago Stadium on NBC. And if anyone can think of any earthly reason why the series should go back to Phoenix, speak now.
OC * Terry Norris, who tops a 10 p.m. fight card on Showtime tomor
row, taking on Troy Waters, was on "Up Close" with Roy Firestone yesterday and came across as a Jekyll and Hyde.
No sooner did the 154-pound champ tell listeners what a nice, laid-back fellow he was when he added, "It feels good to be in the ring and have an opponent right there where you can destroy him."
* The "Olympic Gold" show on TNT tomorrow (4 p.m.) has the U.S. Mobil track and field championships. . . . A tape of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon is on NBC Sunday (3 p.m.) with Channel 2 joining in after the Orioles-Cleveland game gets under way at 1:30. . . . Just a couple of weeks until "Daredevil Duel" on pay-per-view.