Golf fans can get so close to the players that they often are heard when heckling. So instead of letting a flip remark go unnoticed Tuesday morning, John Daly decided to have some fun.
Daly, Fuzzy Zoeller and Robert Gamez were playing a U.S. Open practice round at Baltusrol Golf Club. At the 194-yard, par-3 fourth hole, Zoeller hit his first tee shot in the water that fronts the green, then knocked his second one on the front edge of the green.
"That's where Sunday's pin will be," Zoeller said, to which a fan a few feet away replied, "Assuming you'll be here Sunday." That brought oohs and aahs from the gallery, and Daly said, 'C'mon out here, wise guy."
The crowd roared, and after much goading, Jerry Wolfe, 51, of Shrewsbury, N.J., sheepishly walked out onto the tee. Daly handed him a 5-iron and told him to hit. But Wolfe, knowing better, grabbed a 5-wood from Gamez's bag.
"Don't worry about all these 4,000 people out here," Zoeller quipped, as half of them moved out of the way. Wolfe toed the ball high and to the right, well short of the green.
"I think we taught him a valuable lesson," Daly said. "We got him out there to see what it feels like."
"You can't believe how nervous I was out there," Wolfe said. "But guys like John and Fuzzy are good for the game. That's why people come out."
Wolfe left with autographed golf balls from each player.
No time to spare
Open competitors, already facing narrow fairways, deep rough, fast greens and the vagaries of summer weather, will have a new element to worry about this week _ time.
The U.S. Golf Association, which conducts the Open, has instituted new "pace of play" requirements.
Essentially, the USGA has set an amount of time each group will be allowed to take on a hole. If the group takes longer _ and also falls a certain amount of time behind the preceding group _ it will be warned by an official.
"After the warning, any player who exceeds 40 seconds in making a stroke on three occasions will be assessed a two-stroke penalty," the USGA said. Two further violations will result in disqualification.
The USGA has determined that a threesome should take four hours, 12 minutes to play the par-70 course. A twosome will be allowed just three hours, 42 minutes.
Because of the World Trade Center bombing in nearby New York City in February and the stabbing of tennis player Monica Seles at a tournament in April in German, the USGA took great care in hiring a security company for the U.S. Open, which will have more than 30,000 spectators daily.
Security is especially tight for the name players. Jack Nicklaus, while signing autographs Tuesday, had five police officers escorting him from the locker room to the practice putting green only 30 feet away.
_ BOB HARIG