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DALY: Fried eggs served fresh at U.S. Open

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Is the U.S. Open being held at Congressional Country Club or the International House of Pancakes? I ask this because the USGA seems a bit concerned about fried eggs.

For the uninitiated, a fried egg results when a shot buries in soft sand, "creating a circular splash pattern around the ball," according to one source. Only the top half of the ball can be seen, "giving it the appearance of a yolk in the middle of a fried egg."

To give golfers even more indigestion, the USGA has replaced the usual sand at Congressional — the kind you get at Country Clubs R Us — with softer stuff that leads to fried eggs by the dozen. If you wind up with a lie like that, it could well mean a bogey (or, this being the U.S. Open, another bogey).

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Mike Davis, who set up the course and is the USGA's executive director, says the difference between a good lie and a bad lie in this sand is "a pretty fine line, and a ball that let's say might not end up in a fried egg in the morning could end up in a fried egg later in the day as things dry out."

Haven't they got it backward? Shouldn't the Fried Egg Special be on the breakfast menu? (Also, just wondering: Does it come with hash browns, or are those a la carte?)

"I suspect we're going to get some fried eggs this week, I really do," he said. "But having said that, we don't want a plethora of them, and that's one of the things we'll be looking at very carefully. We get in these bunkers and we test them. There's even firmness measurements that we can take. But I suspect this evening they will get some water so we'll tamp them down a little bit. It's not a perfect science.

"That's the nature of golf. It's like hitting it down the middle of the fairway. You hope you're going to get a good lie, you'll probably get a good lie, but it may end up in a divot. It's the same with a bunker. If you hit a high-powering shot in the bunker and it's coming down almost vertically, good chance this week you're going to get a fried egg, or at least it's going to be a little cuppy."

Cuppy? Don't get me started on cuppy.

You'll be hearing a lot about bunkers this week. So much, in fact, that you'll think you're watching an "All in the Family" marathon. In addition to switching the sand, you see, the USGA has cut down the rough surrounding the bunkers so it'll be easier for the ball to roll in. Instead of having to contend with four-inch-tall grass, players will be faced with potentially more difficult bunker shots. As Archie would say: What meathead dreamed that up?

"The idea was to really accentuate the architectural features," Davis said. "Here at Congressional one of the big features are the drive zone bunkers. So in 1997, I think it's fair to say — as long and thick as the rough was back then — the only way you're going to get in a drive zone bunker was to fly it in there. You weren't going to bounce it in there. We think the architects put those features there for the players to have to think about and work their way around, so it was just a way to get those more in play."

The same goes for the greenside bunkers. Davis has brought those more into play by shaving the banks of the greens. Now, if an approach shot rolls off, "gravity [will] take it back into the bunkers," he said — where the soft sand makes it hard to spin the ball and stop it quickly on the putting surface.

"It comes out more knuckly. ... The idea is when a player hits it in a bunker, which by definition is a hazard, we want it to be a tough recovery."

So the 111th U.S. Open will be part International House of Pancakes, part "All in the Family" — and part "Shawshank Redemption," too, perhaps. The key word here is "penal." Note how often it comes up in the following Davis comment:

"I can assure you that the rough is penal enough right now. And actually, in some ways, I would say that this rough is a bit more penal than you've seen the last few years. And the reason for that is we actually feel it needs to be. These fairways are wider than most U.S. Opens, and ... they're bentgrass fairways, heavy soils, and we've got a lot of humidity in this area.

"So you don't see Congressional's fairways really roll out like some U.S. Opens. You're not seeing 30, 40, 50 yards of run. That's just Congressional. If you miss a fairway here, it's going to be slightly more penal than say last year at Pebble Beach when it was rock hard [and] windy."

That's three penals in two paragraphs. What kind of tournament is this — and are Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in the field?

(It's the U.S. Open, meathead.)

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