Rain promises softer course, tougher play


BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. -- There was no shelter from this storm.

Shortly after noon yesterday, what was supposed to be a thundershower rolled past Oakland Hills Country Club. Two torrential hours and more than two inches of rain later, the start of the U.S. Open seemed in doubt, but some late afternoon sunshine and quick work by the grounds crew meant that play was supposed to start on schedule today, at 7 a.m.

Unless more rains came.

Yesterday's storm wreaked havoc on every structure that wasn't permanent. The tents that were supposed to protect the media center, concession stands and corporate stands did not fare well, as most sprung serious leaks and withstood minor flooding.

On the course, the right back bunker on No. 18 collapsed, but the grounds crew rebuilt the sloping trap to near its preferred dimensions. The watered-down greens lost some of their teeth. Drives may not roll into the deep Open rough, but they won't roll as far, either.

"The golf course is really going to play long now," Tom Watson said. "It's softer than I have ever seen it, and this rain is really going to make it tough. The greens are going to hold a little better, but it's going to make them more spongy. There is going to be a lot of bouncing around the hole."

In U.S. Open history, there has never been a day without some sort of play conducted. The only full round postponed was at Winged Foot, in 1959, at a time when the final day consisted of 36 holes. That year, the final 18 was pushed back to Sunday.

In 1983, the final round at Oakmont was suspended by rain; the final groups finished Monday.

NOTES: The glamour group for the first two rounds consists of defending champion Corey Pavin, two-time U.S. Amateur champion Tiger Woods and British Open champion John Daly. Woods was asked if he and Daly, two of the biggest hitters in golf, should let Pavin hit from the white tees. "He may hit it shorter," Woods said, "but he may beat us all." . . . . The previous group consists of three swinging seniors: Jack Nicklaus, who's appearing in his 40th, and possibly last, U.S. Open; Hale Irwin and Tom Weiskopf. The group before could provide this year's winner, as it sends off Colin Montgomerie and Phil Mickelson, the leading players on the European and PGA tours, respectively.

U.S. Open

Dates: Today through Sunday

Site: Oakland Hills Country Club (South course), Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

TV: Chs. 11, 4 (today-tomorrow, 3-5 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 12: 30-6: 30 p.m.); ESPN (today-tomorrow, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-7: 30 p.m.)

Purse: $2.4 million

Winner's share: $425,000

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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