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TOUGH ROUGH: Johnny Miller and Peter Jacobsen miss the days when the U.S. Open was renowned for its long, thick rough.

During an NBC Sports conference call last week for the U.S. Open, Miller said the rough used to be so tough that it put a premium on hitting fairways. USGA executive director Mike Davis starting in 2006 began a concept of graduated rough, making it deeper the further away it was from the fairway. Players have considered that to be a fairest test over the least seven years.

Miller disagreed, saying the U.S. Open became “more like a PGA Tour event.”

“I think it lost its identity, personally,” Miller said. “I don’t agree with that one bit. To me, the U.S. Open is supposed to be the ultimate test. … I just thought like at Torrey (Pines), they set it up like an old Andy Williams with distance. Not that it wasn’t a good Open _ it was a great Open. But I like the rough, personally.”

Jacobsen recalled watching Hale Irwin in 1974 at Winged Foot, one of the toughest U.S. Opens ever (and one that followed Miller shooting 63 in the final round at Oakmont). Jacobsen said the U.S. Open was about survival, and it was one of the most intimidating events on the PGA Tour schedule.

“You had to drive it in play, get it out of the rough, into the right position where you could get it up and down, and the greens were quick, and hard, and sloping,” Jacobsen said. “It was just very difficult. It’s really going to be fun for me at Merion to see a return _ hopefully a return _ to that way of golf.”

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NICKLAUS HONOR: Jack Nicklaus has been selected for the Ambassador of Golf Award, which is given each year to a person who has promoted golf around the world. He will be honored on the first tee at Firestone Country Club on July 31, the afternoon before the opening round of the Bridgestone Invitational.

Nicklaus won the 1975 PGA Championship at Firestone, along with the World Series of Golf.

He is the second Nicklaus to receive the award from the Northern Ohio Golf Charities. His wife, Barbara, previously was honored.

“This is certainly a special and meaningful recognition. I feel blessed to be included among such a distinguished list of past recipients, including my wife, because I am certainly Barbara Nicklaus’ biggest fan,” Nicklaus said. “As Barbara and I look back on our careers and our lives together, we realize and appreciate that golf has contributed to us having a lifetime of fulfillment, enrichment and happiness. But we also felt a responsibility to give back, whenever and wherever we could.”

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FOLLOWING THE PROS: Rand Jerris, the senior managing director of public services for the USGA, is trying to dispel the notion that pace-of-play issues in golf are primarily related to recreational players trying to copy tour players, especially on the greens.

A tired argument is that amateurs take too much time reading their putts because that’s what they see pros do. Jerris said ongoing research by the USGA shows that player behavior is but a small piece of the pace-of-play puzzle.

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