A quiet day before US Open storm

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Rod Pampling actually used the words “every enjoyable” and “U.S. Open” in the same sentence.

Then again, it was Sunday before the toughest test in golf gets under way at The Olympic Club.

Pampling was among a few dozen players who took advantage of abundant sunshine and little stress at Olympic on the final day before the gates open to the second major championship of the year.

“At this stage, on a calm day, it is enjoyable,” Pampling said.

Behind him on the course were Luke Donald and Keegan Bradley, who played a match that went to the 18th hole. Donald is No. 1 in the world and trying to win his first major, while Bradley has won 50 percent of the majors he has played _ OK, this is only the third major for the PGA champion, and his first U.S. Open.

Donald finally pulled away by blasting out of a bunker to 4 feet for birdie on the 17th, then getting up-and-down from a far more difficult spot in the bunker right of the 18th green. Bradley had a chance to halve the match, but missed an 8-foot birdie putt.

Also on the course was Graeme McDowell, who won the last time this U.S. Open came to northern California at Pebble Beach two years ago.

The Olympic Club is hosting the U.S. Open for the fifth time, and it has delivered one surprise after another _ Jack Fleck rallying to catch Ben Hogan and beating him in a playoff; Arnold Palmer losing a seven-shot lead on the back nine and falling to Billy Casper in a playoff; Scott Simpson running off three straight birdies late in the final round to beat Tom Watson; and Lee Janzen rallying from five shots behind to beat Payne Stewart.

From what some of the players have seen, there might not be any surprises on the golf course.

They expect it to be hard.

“It’s a typical U.S. Open _ small greens, tight fairways,” Hunter Mahan said. “You’re going to have to put the ball in play. You can’t just hit it anywhere and score. This is going to be more about where your misses are than where your good shots are.”

One difference between Olympic now and in 1998, the last year it held the U.S. Open, is the par.

The 520-yard opening hole is now a par 4, while the 522-yard 17th hole has been converted to a par 5. The low score still wins, though this change could creep into a player’s psyche. The change makes the opening six holes one of the toughest stretches anywhere in golf.

“What’s unique about this year is that you’ve got the first six holes that are beyond brutal,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “They’re going to walk to the seventh tee and be 2 or 3 over and think, `I’ve got to catch up,’ when in reality, they don’t.”

Donald played them a couple over par on Sunday, which might actually be par for the course.

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