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Hazeltine ready to see if it is "good enough'

Published Oct. 13, 2005

The words were uttered more than 20 years ago, but they still ring loudly in the ears of anyone who loves Hazeltine National Golf Club, site of this week's U.S. Open, in Chaska, Minn. In the only other Open played at Hazeltine, Dave Hill's comments are remembered far more than Tony Jacklin's victory in 1970.

For example:

"The man who designed it held the blueprints upside down."

"Just because you cut the grass and put up flags doesn't mean you have a golf course."

"If I had to play here every day, I'd find another game."

"Even the par-3s are doglegs."

"What it lacks is 80 acres and a few cows."

Since the 1970 Open, there have been more than 100 changes to the course. Hill has been back, and his words were much more kind. The 7,149-yard course is ready for another test.

"For eight years, it's been Open, Open, Open," said Chris Hague, the course superintendent. "I'm nervous about the unknown things. What are the players going to say? Are they going to pick the place apart? Are we up to the other three or four last Open clubs? Are we good enough?"

Changing times

The biggest changes at Hazeltine occurred on the 16th and 17th holes. At the Open in 1970, No. 16 was a long, downhill par-3, and No. 17 was a short, tight par-4. Now, the 16th is a 384-yard par-4, and the 17th is a 182-yard par-3. After the criticism from Hill _ and several other pros _ Hazeltine listened and made changes, including the moves at 16 and 17.

Jack's back for more

It should not be a surprise Jack Nicklaus has several U.S. Open records, including most victories (tied with four), most times runner-up (tied with four), lowest 72-hole score (272), lowest 18-hole score (tied with 63) and low 72-hole score by an amateur (282).

When he tees off this week, he'll add to his record of most Open starts (34) and most consecutive Opens (34). Should he make the cut, he'll finish 72 holes for the 30th time, also a record.

And at 51, Nicklaus is hoping to add another major title to his resume.

"I've been working on my golf game with the Open coming up here this week," said Nicklaus, who is competing in the Senior Players Championship in Michigan. "By the end of the week, I hope it will be where I want it."

Who was that guy?

Quick, who was the runner-up at last year's U.S. Open? As time passes, people forget Mike Donald, who lost in a playoff to Hale Irwin at Medinah.

"Obviously, I have a lot of regrets," Donald said. "The difference between winning and losing is significant in terms of recognition, in terms of history.

"But I got a fax the next day from one of my best friends, telling me not to spend one minute on what might have been. And I've really tried. Because I didn't win doesn't make me a bad person."

Minnesota history

This will be the fourth U.S. Open to be played in the Minneapolis area.

In 1916 at Minikahda, amateur Chick Evans became only the second player to win an Open with a score under par. He could have declared himself a professional and accepted the prize money, but instead placed it in escrow and later began the Evans Scholarship program for caddies.

In 1930 at Interlachen, Bobby Jones took the third leg of the Grand Slam, becoming only the third player to win the Open with a score under par.

In 1970 at Hazeltine, of course, there were Hill's comments.