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Carnage at U.S. Open

     As you know this blog follows sports closely despite the whining and mewling and sputtering of readers who think we should only write about things that aggravate them, like war and violence and the imminent End of Time. But trust me, the U.S. Open golf tournament this weekend was as harrowing as a guerilla war. It was full of the golf equivalent of dismemberment and evisceration. The USGA once again set up a diabolically difficult course that made great players look like weekend hackers. Time and again, a golfer would hit the ball to within a few feet of the flag, only to see it keep rolling, and rolling, all the way off the green and sometimes off the course altogether and into a nearby Wal-Mart parking lot. It was evil stuff. The feel-good story would have been huge, sweaty, funny Jason Gore, a big slab of meat from the minor leagues of golf, pulling a Hoosiers and somehow winning the national championship. No one had ever heard of this guy, and yet there he was, in the final pairing on the final day of the U.S. Open. Unfortunately, scientists today are still trying to compute his score. Gore claims he shot an 84, but I'm pretty sure he stopped counting around the 12th hole.

    His playing partner, Retief Goosen, led by 3 strokes going into the final round and shot an 81 -- that would be 11 over par. Golf historians say it was the worst final-round score by the 54-hole leader since the Battle of Hastings. Local favorite Olin Browne, entering the day tied for second, rallied to shoot a big fat 80. You could argue that it was an insanely difficult course, but a guy who hasn't been any good for a decade, New Zealander and Maori tribesman Michael Campbell, shot a 69, in between his frequent dashes to the Port-a-Johns. He was some kind of nervous, and everyone watching him down the stretch knew with absolute certainty that he would collapse and that Tiger Woods would win. Woods had that championship glare -- in addition to hitting 330-yard drives down the center of the fairway. Someone fiddled with the script. Woods couldn't make a putt, Campbell couldn't miss, and the Maori won easily. The best part may have been his emotional reaction, openly weeping, confessing his nerves, talking of how much it meant to the people of New Zealand, and proving that you don't have to be a flatliner like Goosen to win this event. Boz has a typically excellent column about Campbell's improbable return from golf hell. As Miller would say, "Great copy!"

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 20, 2005; 11:59 AM ET
 
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