Notes Danger on 9 Sabbatini Stood Up


2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- Players have more to worry about on the No. 9 green than stepping on somebody else's line.
Cross the not-so-thin blue line, and it could mean disqualification from the U.S. Open.
The ninth green at Oakmont Country Club is so massive that only half is in play for the tournament. The other half, marked by a blue line on the turf and blue stakes on either side, is the practice green. So while Tiger Woods is finishing out the hole, a dozen players could be practicing their putting stroke a few feet away.
Players on the ninth hole can play their shot from wherever it lands, even if it runs past the blue line. If the ball happens to go into one of the practice holes -- don't laugh, it happened at the 2003 U.S. Amateur -- it's considered ground under repair, and the player can take the ball out, place it and play without penalty.
For players who are practicing, it's a little trickier. If their ball goes over the line, they're supposed to pick it up and return to the practice area.
'He's OK as long as he doesn't play a stroke below the blue line,' said Ed Gowan, a member of the U.S. Golf Association's rules committee. 'He goes and picks it up and walks back.'
Just don't hit it. That's considered practicing on the course -- and the penalty for that is disqualification.
'The only other green I've seen that's possibly weirder -- I used to play golf in Japan and there was a green that was 77 yards deep,' Todd Hamilton said. 'I had 100 yards to the front and the pin was 70 yards in. So I had 170 yards to the pin.
'It's kind of unique,' Hamilton added of No. 9. 'They always talk about it when the Open comes here.'
Rory Sabbatini signed up for the 7 a.m. tee time for Wednesday's practice rounds, knowing that Tiger Woods has long preferred to be first off.
That's no longer the case, which Sabbatini discovered when he arrived at Oakmont and Woods was nowhere to be found.
'He's ducking me,' Sabbatini said with a laugh.
Sabbatini and Woods have sparred with golf shots and words over the last month, so seeing them together in a practice round might have been a treat.
One week after Woods rallied to beat him at the Wachovia Championship, Sabbatini said Woods looked 'more beatable than ever.' Woods responded that he already had won three times this year -- the career total for Sabbatini.
Sabbatini, coming off a victory three weeks ago at Colonial, said he was disappointed Woods didn't play Wednesday for no other reason than 'I would have liked to pick his brain.'
When someone asked why Woods didn't play, Sabbatini said to ask Woods.
'I'll go ask him,' Sabbatini said.
So he walked across the practice green to where Woods was putting, and they chatted briefly. Sabbatini returned to a small cluster of reporters and delivered the verdict.
'He said he stopped playing on Wednesday at the majors a couple of years ago, and it's worked out OK for him,' Sabbatini said. 'Hard to argue with that.'
Woods has won four of the last nine majors.
Johnny Miller thought Oakmont could not have been set up any better, and he cautioned the USGA to be careful.
'Remember this,' Miller said. 'When you make a championship so ridiculous, you can get ridiculous winners. You can get winners that will never win, ever again, just happened to have a hot week putting or a good bounce here or there.'
Miller won the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1973 with a 63 in the final round. He now works for NBC as a golf analyst, and his pointed comments have not made him a favorite among the players.
That much was evident when even mild-mannered Steve Stricker took issue with Miller's latest opinion.
'I've been part of this championship for 12 years,' he said. 'I've seen some bizarre setups, but I haven't seen too many bizarre winners.'
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