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Gore aces Open underdog role with a final round we could play


IT WASN'T HARD to identify with Jason Gore, the walking human interest story who stepped to the first tee at Pinehurst yesterday with a chance to deliver one of the great long-shot victories in the history of the U.S. Open.

It was even easier to identify with him a few hours later, when he double-bogeyed the 18th hole to finish with a final round of 84 ... a mile or so behind New Zealand's Michael Campbell, who actually did deliver one of the great long-shot victories in Open history.

Gore was the guy with the perpetual smile who found himself in the highly unlikely position of being paired with defending champion and three-round leader Retief Goosen in the last group yesterday. And he was still smiling after he and Goosen produced one of the greatest final group flops of all time - shooting a combined 25-over par in the money round of the most difficult event in big-time golf.

(I doubt anybody cares, but it just struck me that the only difference between me and Gore is that I don't need to team up with anybody to go 25-over par.)

Maybe it wasn't what Gore would have expected if someone had told him earlier in the week that he would be the last guy putting out in the U.S. Open - to a big ovation - but he kept his sense of humor and even got a chuckle out of the taciturn Goosen when it became apparent to both golfers that all was lost on the back nine.

He reportedly approached Goosen at the 16th tee and asked him if he wanted to play the last three holes for $10 "just to make it interesting."

Campbell's victory would have been more stirring if Tiger Woods had been able to avoid the 16th-hole bogey that blunted his late charge, but there was plenty of drama and there was no mistaking the emotion on the face of the first New Zealander to win a major since 1963.

That's one of the things that makes the majors so intriguing ... the possibility of someone coming out of nowhere to become an instant star.

It was tough to watch a disconsolate David Newhan pack his bag on Saturday night for a trip to Triple-A Ottawa. The move - to make room for the return of Luis Matos - may have made sense strategically, but it proved that life isn't always fair.

Newhan was a key component of the second-half turnaround in 2004 that set the stage for the club's surprising performance so far this year, but he didn't get a real chance to build on last year's success. He got sporadic only playing time the first month of the season and was denied a chance to play regularly in place of Matos when the Orioles called up Single-A outfielder Jeff Fiorentino.

Hopefully, he'll go to the minor leagues and take his frustration out on Triple-A pitching, so club officials will not have to think twice before bringing him back at the next opportunity.

The interleague series with the Colorado Rockies re-energized trade speculation around Camden Yards, and Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd didn't hide his desire to stay in touch with the Orioles as the July 31 waiver deadline draws closer.

I got another e-mail the other day suggesting that the O's package 100-mph reliever Jorge Julio with some prospects to get power-hitting first baseman Todd Helton, but that isn't going to happen for two reasons:

1. O'Dowd insists that Helton is not available.

2. If Julio ever pitched at Coors Field, they would have to put up a screen in front of Cheyenne, Wyo.

Good to see Lee Mazzilli get himself thrown out of a game for the first time as a major league manager, even if the apparent Chris Gomez home run that was ruled foul turned out -upon video review - to be foul.

Maz has been way too logical in his approach to arguing with the umpires, generally choosing to stay in the dugout because it is virtually impossible to get a call overturned.

Once in a while, it pays to make them think you're a little crazy. Certainly works for Lou Piniella.

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