Hedblom prefers ice but heats up with 66


PINEHURST, N.C. - The road Peter Hedblom took to his first and the 105th U.S. Open was, to put in mildly, unusual.

A former hockey player in his native Sweden who yearns for a chance to play in the NHL, Hedblom needed to finish the last four holes of his sectional qualifier in England with an eagle and three birdies just to hit the cut line.

Then he had to wait a couple of days for his clubs to arrive at the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club from Stockholm.

"On Sunday, I just walked around with a sand wedge from Taylor Made and got a putter, so I just walked around and chipped and putted, which you need," said Hedblom, whose clubs arrived Tuesday.

It was understandable Hed- blom wasn't quite ready for his first round in the Open. He shot 7-over 77. But yesterday, going out in the first group off the first tee, he shot the tournament's best round, a 4-under-par 66.

"That's golf," said Hedblom, 35. "You come up here some weeks and everything is perfect. You feel good and you shoot 75. And then today, I didn't feel that good. Obviously, holing a lot of putts is going to help."

If Hedblom weren't playing golf, he thinks he might have been good enough to play in the NHL. He stopped playing hockey at age 16, but still plays with his son and with former NHL players, as well as golfers.

"I broke my leg in 2001 playing ice hockey," he said. "Actually, I should play in the National Hockey League. That's where I should be playing."

Leader of pack

When his last name first appeared on the leader board yesterday, the jokes began.

Was it Al or Tipper, or maybe even '60s pop singer Lesley?

Jason Gore joined in the joke later on, after he climbed all the way to the top to share the lead at 2-under-par 138 with defending champion Retief Goosen and Olin Browne going into today's third round.

"This is actually not the first time I've led the Open," Gore said after shooting a 3-under-par 67. "I was one of the first groups out in '98 and holed a wedge on the first hole at Olympic and I was the first guy to make birdie at a U.S. Open, so this is old hat for me."

Woods' scrape

Not that the USGA would toss the world's No. 2 player out of the U.S. Open, but Tiger Woods put himself in jeopardy of being disqualified yesterday when he scraped the ninth green with his putter after missing a putt.

According to the Etiquette Section in the Rules of Golf, a player can be disqualified under Rule 33-7 for a "serious breach" of etiquette.

Tom Meeks, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition, said that what Woods did might be "understood as a breach," but because it happened once, it would not be a "serious breach."

Asked about the incident later, Woods said: "I was ticked. I run the first one by on 6, ran it about 20 feet by, and then that one [on 9] I ran 10 feet by. I wasn't exactly very happy at myself."

Funk on fringes

Fred Funk, who finished a career-best sixth in last year's Open, is still hanging around this year. The former Maryland golf coach, who won The Players Championship in late March, is six shots off the lead at 4-over 144 after shooting 71 yesterday.

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