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Seniors Like Course, Hate Greens

July 9, 1999

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ The Senior PGA Tour’s first visit to Iowa is a big hit with the players, except for one thing.

The players are raving about the layout of the Des Moines Golf and Country Club. They’re less thrilled with the severe slopes on the undulating greens.

``The golf course is great. The greens are rubbish,″ said Brian Barnes, a Scotsman who shot a second-round 69 on Friday.

Barnes also took a shot at famed designer Pete Dye, the course architect.

``The guy’s screwy. Probably three-fourths of the bloody green can’t be used for pin placement. So what’s the point of having them?

``I’m not upset. It just annoys me that a guy can get away with designing greens like this,″ Barnes said.

Defending champ Hale Irwin complained after the first round about putting ``a runaway rabbit.″ Gil Morgan had several putts get away during the second round, strokes he felt he might have secured elsewhere.

With wide fairways and forgiving rough, the course is a welcome sight for many of the senior tour players.

``It seems like such a nice golf course, tee to green,″ Morgan said.

But eventually, they’ve got to putt, and that leads to plenty of gripes.

``I think if he (Dye) would have had a really good set of greens here that were a little flatter, you would have a really great golf course,″ Morgan said.

If Barnes seems grumpy, it’s because he has rheumatoid arthritis and his feet were swelling near the end of his round Friday.

``It was beginning to hurt so much toward the last five or six holes,″ Barnes said. ``It was just, `Let’s get in as quickly as possible.′ But you can’t get in quickly around here with these damn greens.″

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HOLE-IN-ONE: Hank Cooper of Sanger, Texas, aced the third hole, a 172-yard par-3 where the green is protected by a lake and a front bunker.

``It hit and hopped in,″ Cooper said. ``I didn’t really see it but I heard the crowd, and I knew it went in.″

Then, Cooper added: ``Don’t I win a Caddy or something?″

The USGA doesn’t award a Cadillac for a hole-in-one.

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NICE TURNAROUND: Dick Johnson pulled off an amazing about-face.

A teaching pro from Balsam Lake, Wis., Johnson shot an 85 on Thursday and started the second round with a double-bogey 6 on No. 1. Then he turned it around and finished with a 71, a 14-stroke improvement.

``You start second-guessing yourself,″ said Johnson, the only left-hander in the field of 156. ``I knew I was a better golfer than what my score indicated yesterday. I knew I had to come back.″

Johnson had only one other bogey and carded four birdies, three on the back nine. One of those birdies came on the 16th, a par-4 that he had double-bogeyed on Thursday.

``The wind is down a little bit today,″ Johnson said. ``The greens are just as fast, but the ball is sticking when it hits.

``I’ll tell you what,″ he said. ``There’s a lot of pressure playing in the U.S. Open. It’s a great experience. You get those jitters out the second day and you’re a lot more relaxed.″

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LAP LANDING: Talk about something falling right into your lap.

Walter Morgan’s tee shot on No. 3 sailed right and the ball bounced into the lap of spectator Chris Hawks, who was sitting in a collapsible chair.

Hawks, from Des Moines, held his knees together to keep the ball were it was until a USGA rules official arrived. The official told Hawks to hand the ball to Morgan, who was given a free drop.

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ATTENDANCE WATCH: The crowd swelled to 38,400 on Friday, the fifth straight day with an increase.

Practice rounds early in the week had crowds of 25,000 on Monday, 27,000 on Tuesday and 29,000 on Wednesday. Thursday’s opening round drew 30,000.

Friday’s galleries brought attendance so far to 154,400.

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HIT-&-RUN UPDATE: West Des Moines police won’t discuss an accident involving a Senior Open courtesy car until after the tournament.

Lt. Scott Wiegert said Friday an investigation continues. Police are sorting through differing statements concerning the crash, which apparently involved one of the 160 Cadillacs provided to players this week.

A motorist told police his vehicle was hit Tuesday by a white Cadillac sport-utility vehicle bearing a Senior Open logo. The crash occurred on Interstate 35 a few miles southeast of Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

Tournament officials won’t disclose which player might have been involved but said the vehicle had minor damage. Police said charges were possible because the Cadillac left the scene.

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