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Play could be rough, sandy at British Open

Tom Lehman finished putting on the eighth green Monday morning at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, then turned around and stared into a bunker that looked like a bottomless pit.

"I bet it's 10 feet," Lehman said, trying to guess the height from the sand to the top of the sodded wall.

Not willing to venture in there himself, Lehman asked for volunteers in the gallery to step into the bunker so he could get a better idea. One man who said he was 6 feet 1 stepped in and his head was 3 feet from the top.

Much has changed at Royal Lytham from 1996, the year Lehman set the 54-hole scoring record at the British Open with a 15-under 198 and went on to win.

Due to a wet spring, the grass is greener and more lush and will make one of the shorter courses on the British Open rotation play slightly longer. Even more noticeable is the rough, waist-high in areas, with new growth at the bottom that Lehman says will trap the ball unlike dryer, wispy grass.

Also, British Open officials added 14 bunkers, bringing the total to 196. That's an average of nearly 11 for every hole.

AZINGER OUT: Bradenton's Paul Azinger became the latest American star to pull out of the British Open, telling organizers he had been suffering from the flu for four days.

Azinger, who tied for seventh at St. Andrews last year, joined Hal Sutton, Lee Janzen, Kirk Triplett and Notah Begay among Americans who have pulled out.

VAN DE VELDE IN: Jean Van de Velde, who squandered a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole of the 1999 British Open, will be back to try again after cruising through qualifying Monday. Also qualifying was Jeff Maggert.

Failing to qualify were Europe's Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance and former captain Mark James; Sweden's Per-Ulrik Johansson, Anders Forsbrand and Jarmo Sandelin; and 1995 runner-up Costantino Rocca of Italy.

NEW TV PACT: Tiger Woods' continuing impact on the PGA Tour has helped milk $850-million from six networks in the TV-rights renewal deal.

A new four-year agreement that starts in 2003 is nearly a 50 percent boost from the almost $500-million-plus deal signed in 1997 for 1999 through 2002.

Woods' presence in tournaments this year has given networks a 4.3 ratings average compared to an overall 3.3 average. When he hasn't participated, ratings have dropped to 3.0.

With the new deal, ABC and ESPN become stronger partners. ABC, with 71 events, passes CBS' 68 over the four-year period. NBC has 22 events, including two Presidents Cups, while ESPN boosted its presence to include early round coverage from three of the sport's top five events.

Also on cable, USA Network has early round coverage of 120 events and total four-day coverage of 12 events, and the Golf Channel remains the exclusive home for the Buy.Com Tour.

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