Welcome, welcome, yes, you’re in the right place, the U.S. Open, at Oakland Hills - hey, you with the sandals on, it’s OK. Stop hiding in the corner. No one’s going to kick you out. This might be the most exclusive country club in the metro Detroit area, and on other weeks, they wouldn’t let you near here with a bazooka, but today, everyone is love and putters. That’s the great thing about the U.S. Open. It’s an American tournament! You pay for a ticket, the doors swing open - no matter how badly you’re dressed.
This does not mean, however, that all golf fans are created equal. Let’s be honest. Not everyone entering Oakland Hills these next four days will be what you call your true divot head. Many will not know what a divot is. Many will see a divot and say, “Look, Phil, they need to get a sod guy out here.” Others will watch a golfer on a tee, hear a fan whisper, “He’s gonna hit Big Bertha” and immediately phone police with an assault charge.
Still others will wait hours in a hot sun, risking fatigue, dehydration and insect bites, just to partake in that most important of golf traditions, yelling at ESPN’s Chris Berman, “You da man, Chris! You da man!”
That’s OK. Golf makes room for all types. It’s just that, well, perhaps we ought to separate the group a little, just to cut down on confusion.
So when you hear your category called, folks, please step to the right or the left. …
If I say the word “Norman,” and you think of the most tear-jerking finish to a Masters you’ve ever seen, step to the right.
If I say the word “Norman,” and you think “Bates,” step to the left.
If you hear Jack Nickaus complain about the greens and you think “the putting must be treacherous,” step to the right.
If you hear Nicklaus complain about the greens and you think, “Why doesn’t he try a meat dish?” step to the left.
If you enter Oakland Hills and say, “Let’s go where Hogan stood in ‘51” step to the right.
If you enter Oakland Hills and say, “Where’s the Monster, I want to ride the Monster, Yeehaw!” step to the left.
If you say, “The South Course, man, I get chills just looking at it” step to the right.
If you say, “That’s enough of this South Course thing, let’s check out the East Course,” step to the left.
If you think an ideal foursome is you, Jack, Arnie and Tom, step to the right.
If you think the ideal foursome is you, Heather Locklear, Kim Basinger and a bowl of strawberries, step to the left.
If you think buying titanium is the ultimate investment in your long strokes, step to the right.
If you think buying titanium means you are part of a nuclear arms ring, step to the left.
If you know what Steve Elkington looks like, step to the right - for medical treatment.
If you know what Arnold Palmer looks like, sort of, I think, he’s the blond guy, isn’t he? - step to the left.
If you read the “Little Red Book” and said, “That Harvey Penick was a genius,” step to the right.
If you read the “Little Red Book” and signed up for the Russian Revolution, step to the left.
Handicap? Good? Step to the right.
Handicap? Tragic? Step to the left.
If I say “Fanny and Nick” and you think of one of the most successful caddie-golfer relationships of our day, step to the right.
If I say “Fanny and Nick” and you think of Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif in “Funny Girl,” step to the left.
If you watch Corey Pavin line up a putt on the 18th hole, and you ask “Is he using a Titleist?” step to the right.
If you watch Corey Pavin line up a putt on the 18th, and you ask “Does he win a free game if he sinks this?” step to the left.
If I say “St. Andrews” and you say, “Yes, the birthplace of golf,” step to the right.
If I say “St. Andrew’s” and you say, “Yeah, I saw the Sex Pistols there once, good mosh pit” step to the left.
If you watch Faldo go by, and you say, “There goes one of the great ones,” step to the right.
If you watch Faldo go by and you say, “There goes Harrison Ford!” step to the left.
If you say, “Jose Maria Olazabal, what a sweet driver” step to the right.
If you say, “Jose Maria Olazabal - wasn’t she in ‘La Boheme’?” step to the left.
If you enter Oakland Hills and think, “Man, someday, if I hit the lottery, I can afford to actually golf once on this course” step to the right.
If you enter Oakland Hills and think, “Nice place. What’s it cost to join? Couple hundred bucks?” step to the left.
And finally, if you know why so many golfers have colorless personalities but wear clothes that are out of a Jim Carrey movie, and …
… if you can explain how wood goes farther than iron, and …
… if you know why men who make $20 million a year in endorsements still have to pencil in their own scorecards, and …
… if you can explain how a golfer who once won the Masters was actually allergic to grass …
Then come over here. I have a few questions to ask you myself.
xxxx U.S. OPEN, FACTS AND FIGURES Facts and figures for the U.S. Open Golf Championship, which starts today at the Oakland Hills Country Club: Par - 35-35-70. Format - 72 holes (18 daily) stroke play. Playoff, if necessary - 18 holes, July 17. Field - 156 (150 pros, 6 amateurs). Purse - $2.4 million. Winners share - $425,000. Defending champion - Corey Pavin. Former champions at this venue - Cyril Walker (1924), Ralph Guldahl (1937), Ben Hogan (1951), Gene Littler (1961), Andy North (1985). Former champions in field - Jack Nicklaus (1962, 1967, 1972, 1980), Hale Irwin (1974, 1979, 1990), Tom Watson (1982), Scott Simpson (1987), Curtis Strange (1988-89), Payne Stewart (1991), Tom Kite (1992), Lee Janzen (1993), Ernie Els (1994), Corey Pavin (1995). Television - NBC (Thursday-Friday, noon-3 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; Monday, if necessary, 11 a.m.-conclusion) and ESPN (ThursdayFriday, 8 a.m.-11 a.m. and 2-4:30 p.m.; Monday, if necessary, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.).
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