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For viewers, pros having it rough on U.S. Open course is good stuff


ADMIT IT. You're jealous of them. They're out there walking the country's finest fairways, all color-coordinated, tastefully-logoed, bronzed-forearmed and caringly caddied.

So if pro golf's elite have a bit of a time dealing with the USGA-tricked-out No. 2 course at Pinehurst for this weekend's U.S. Open, you should enjoy seeing those guys sweat through their sponsor-issued caps.

Just ask NBC's Roger Maltbie.

"The people I've talked to over the course of the year, they don't mind seeing the pros getting a little bloodied up once a year, watching them struggle and watching them go through what golf feels like for them on a weekly basis," Maltbie said in a conference call Wednesday. "I don't think they would like to see it every week. I think they truly do enjoy the challenge that the U.S. Open setup provides the players. ... I don't think they mind watching them struggle for par and making some bogies and doubles."

Maltbie said one of the contenders, Phil Mickelson, is counting on prospering while others struggle.

"What Phil did say explained his good feeling about this place. 'Nobody is going to hit the greens, and if we play a tournament where nobody is going to hit the greens, I like my chances as good as anybody's,' " Maltbie said. "That really does allude to the confidence he has in his short game, in his pitching and chipping, his imagination near greens, his ability to manufacture shots."

It's Pinehurst's greens that may be among the stars of the show. They aren't exactly what the golf fan sees on a typical weekend at the First Mega-Huge-Financial Corp. Insta-Classic.

Tom Roy, NBC Sports executive producer, said: "If you really want to get a good idea of what these greens are like, go get a salad bowl out of the cabinet and turn it upside down, and that's basically the shape of these greens."

NBC will employ "Green Grid" during the telecasts to illustrate Pinehurst's slopes. ... The network also is using a steady-cam to get close to players on the greens. ...

Five super slo-mo cameras are in play, which is four more than NBC normally would use. (Better keep those cameras away from Rory Sabbatini. We all know how he deals with things that are super slow.)

The return of HBO's Real Sports on Tuesday at 10 p.m. includes a segment examining responsible steroid use as a performance enhancer in sports. ...

Keith Olbermann will reunite with former "Big Show" partner Dan Patrick on the latter's ESPN Radio show on Fridays beginning Aug. 5. Olbermann will appear during the 2-3 p.m. segment of Patrick's program. No SportsCenter pairing before or since has possessed the chemistry, intelligence and wit of those two. Hearing Patrick doing his athlete-chummy radio show these days, a listener has to struggle to recall his sharp-tongued performance back on the Big Show.

Maybe it didn't show up on the Doppler Radar, but there apparently was a pretty big head of steam rising from areas in and around Washington on Wednesday night. Washington Nationals fans wanted to see their team's game against the Los Angeles Angels, which was being televised by ESPN2. But the Nats were blacked out in the vicinity.

Though fans may think otherwise, the blackout had nothing to with Peter Angelos or the Orioles' legal wrangling with Comcast. Major League Baseball rules, written to protect regional television rights, required that the game be blacked out regardless of the availability of the game on local TV.

Colin Mills, president of the Nats Fan Club, said in an e-mail (passed along by Sun colleague Jeff Barker): "Major League Baseball needs to understand this: If they're going to put a team here, they need to give it the best possible chance to succeed. Blackouts like this serve no one and make it much harder for the team to reach out to the fans, especially the casual ones. I can't help feeling that baseball is succeeding here in spite of MLB, not because of it."

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