From rough, Open has smooth start

The TV Repairman:

No sooner did the cameras focus in on the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills yesterday when one of the tourney favorites, Nick Price, was seen taking practice swings in rough up to the waist. Slash, slash and clumps of turf flew hither and yon.


Finally, barely able to see his ball after taking his stance, the South African took a mighty hack, the ball rose gently and fell to earth on the green and rolled to within six feet of the pin. Boy, oh boy, what a four days this is going to be, viewers thought to themselves.

ESPN is on Long Island again today with 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. shows, then NBC moves in for 12:30-6:30 p.m. marathons tomorrow and Sunday. If you've never seen Shinnecock, picture a typical British Open course and green it up a bunch. No wonder network analyst Johnny Miller calls it one of his two favorite courses in America.


The first Open 100 years ago was staged over a nine-hole layout in Newport, R.I., and the field made four trips around the course in one day before Horace Rawlins was handed a check for $150 for winning. The victor Sunday evening lays claim to $320,000.

* Indication of just how stupid the NHL is blacking out the home market for Stanley Cup playoff games can be gleaned from the fact ESPN's viewership figures shot up nearly two-thirds when the ban was lifted during the conference finals.

After all these years, the league doesn't know that its fans won't stay home to watch on the tube when the alternative is the arena? Amazing! New Jersey and Detroit begin the finals tomorrow at 8 p.m. on Fox and, if they go the seven-game route, this thing could reach July, which, as everyone knows, is pro football time.

ESPN's cutting away from a playoff game last week as it headed into overtime at 11 p.m. was absolutely unconscionable. I like "SportsCenter," too, but not that much.

* "The Show" on CBS Sunday (1-6 p.m.) includes the NASCAR Michigan 400 and a light heavyweight slugging match between James Toney (46-2, 31 KOs) and Freddie Delgado (21-3, 20 KOs). Tomorrow (4 p.m.), junior lightweights Regilio Turr (38-3) and Peter Taliaferro (28-4) collide.

Actually, it's a fairly large weekend of action for the men in the padded mittens, Riddick Bowe meeting the menacing Jorge Luis Gonzalez with his WBO heavyweight title on the line tomorrow (10 p.m.) on HBO. The challenger may be the angriest ever to enter a ring. Among the gripes: Boycotts prevented him from competing in two Olympics; his father was denied a pro career in Castro's Cuba; all the backlash he received when he beat the legendary Teofilo Stevenson back in his homeland; and, after knocking down Bowe four times to win a Pan American Games title, Gonzalez went home while Riddick grabbed the unified heavyweight title.

Also, Showtime has a boxing twin bill tonight at 11, Frankie Randall (51-3) taking on Jose Barboza (20-8) and Mike McCallum (48-2) duking it out with Fabrice Tiozzo (31-1). With a name like Fabrice, the challenger from France probably learned how to fight at an early age.

* TV ratings are just so much noise unless meaning and perspective are affixed to them, and one of the mistakes often repeated is that big-market teams always register the biggest figures. So how come the Baltimore Bullets taking on the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971 still carries the second-highest TV rating for NBA final Game 1's? And someone please explain how the Indiana State vs. Michigan State showdown is still the highest rated NCAA championship game by a healthy chunk. They're a couple of towns about 250 miles and a couple of thousand farms apart out in the heartland.


* The U.S. Track and Field Championships are being covered by ABC tomorrow (4:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.). Anyone who is anyone is there because the first three finishers in each event qualify for the World Championships in Sweden Aug. 4-13 and the Worlds provide invaluable experience toward the Olympics in Atlanta next summer.

* The U.S. vs. Mexico figures as one of the key matches of U.S Cup '95, but booking the soccer match into RFK Stadium on Sunday (3:30 p.m.), Father's Day, wasn't the best of scheduling for the live gate. ABC's doing the game.

* What do you think, is it a sympathy thing, baseball naming Lyle Lovett to sing the national anthem at the All-Star Game in Texas?

* The analyst working CBS' coverage of the College World Series title game last weekend was ex-big league manager Jeff Torborg, who rang up the second-highest one-season batting average by a collegian while playing at Rutgers in 1963: .537.

* ESPN kicks off its college football slate Aug. 31 with defending national champ Nebraska taking on Big 12 rival Oklahoma State. Let's see, the Huskers will be allowed 20 practices prior to that, which means their season will run from about Aug. 8 to Jan. 2. That has to be brutal for a kid majoring in astro-physics with a biology minor.

* It comes as no great surprise that the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Cougars, new kids on the block in the NFL, will not be making an appearance on ABC's "Monday Night Football" this fall. But fear not, gang, they will be the participants in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on July 29.


* Same-day coverage of the World Championship of women's soccer final goes at 1 p.m. Sunday. . . . The new "free" TV home of the Washington Bullets and Capitals, Channel 50, is carried on more than 30 cable systems, but Baltimore City's United Artists Cable is not among them.