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Sweet 16th could break some hearts

Before this week, few of the players in the 91st U.S. Open had seen Hazeltine National Golf Club. The tournament was last played here in 1970, and the five players here then and now _ Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Tom Kite and David Graham _ are playing a much different course. The most talked about hole is easily the par-4 16th, Hazeltine's signature that was changed from a par-3 in the late 1970s. It is 384 yards, with a lake on the right side and a creek running down the left. A tree on the right side makes the driving area more narrow.

It is a dogleg to the right and requires a tee shot to carry 200 yards to get over the edge of the lake and the marsh. The green is a peninsula in the lake.

"It's a great hole," said Nick Faldo. "I don't understand what all the talk is about the 16th. It's a very good hole. I hit a driver (in a practice round) for the fun of it, but I'll probably use a 1-iron off the tee. Then it's a 5-iron or a 7-iron (to the green)."

"There's water left, water right, water everywhere," said Nick Price. "But it's a great hole, one to play cautiously. There are going to be a lot of players making doubles and triples (bogeys)."

The hole was changed from a par-3 to a par-4 because the 17th hole, originally a tight par-4, was changed to a par-3. A championship course, it was deemed, could not have back-to-back par-3s, especially so near the end. So the 16th had to be changed.

Not everybody likes it. Nicklaus, in a U.S. Open preview for ABC, said the hole seems out of place in relation to the others. "The players are going to be asking, "Do I like this or don't I?'

" Nicklaus said. "But they're still going to have to play it."

"I don't think it's very good," said Masters champ Ian Woosnam. "The tree which covers one half of the fairway blocks the right, and there should be more fairway on the left side. It's one of the more spectacular holes, but it's not one of the best."

USGA news: The United States Golf Association has assigned rules officials for each group during the U.S. Open. Executive director David Fay will monitor television for violations to help keep players from signing an incorrect scorecard. The USGA is considering going to a 36-hole final round for the 1995 Open, the year of the organization's centennial. The tournament has not concluded with a 36-hole final since 1964, when Ken Venturi won.

In the groove: A federal court in San Francisco overturned the PGA's ban on irons with square-shaped "U" grooves.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a company that makes the clubs and golfers who use them raised questions about the PGA's procedures in ordering the ban _ the most serious being that the PGA allowed golfers who had contracts with competing manufacturers to take part in one of the votes.

The 3-0 ruling allows golfers to continue to use the clubs in tournaments until a trial determines whether the ban would be legal.

Notes: Billy Andrade, winner of the last two tournaments on the PGA Tour, could become the first player since Gary Player in 1978 to win three consecutive tournaments if he were to win the U.S. Open. Player won the Masters, Tournament of Champions and Houston Open in 1978.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.