Notes Euros Angst Feeling Blue

By Associated PressJune 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- Get close to the top of the leaderboard at a major, and European players know what's coming.
When are you finally going to win one of these things?
'It has to happen sooner rather than later,' Justin Rose said Saturday after shooting a 73 that put him three strokes off the lead at the U.S. Open. 'There are so many capable players from Europe it has to be a matter of time.
'It's a question of who it will be.'
Rose and fellow Englishman Paul Casey both have a shot at it at Oakmont Country Club. The two are 5-over 215, tied for third with Stephen Ames and Bubba Watson behind leader Aaron Baddeley and Tiger Woods.
There was a time in the 1980s and early 1990s when the Europeans were major players at the majors. At the British Open and Masters, at least. Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal all have titles to their names.
But the Europeans have been shut out since Paul Lawrie won the British in 1999, and you have to go back to Tony Jacklin in 1970 to find the last European who won the U.S. Open. Don't even start on the drought at the PGA Championship.
'The British press and the European press are gagging for it,' Casey said. 'They can't wait. Hopefully we can pull it off today.'
It's not as if the Europeans don't have the talent. Just look at the last few results at the Ryder Cup.
Rose tied for fifth at the 2003 U.S. Open and was third at the Bob Hope this year. Casey has three top 10s this year, including a tie for 10th at Augusta. Throw in Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Henrik Stenson, who all missed the cut this week, and no way the Europeans should be on such an oh-fer streak.
'We need to speed it up a bit because it's been too long,' Casey said. 'It's sad that (Lawrie) was the last European to win a major, because we have a nice talented group right now.'
Jeff Brehaut waited more than 20 years to play in his first major, and he's making the most of it.
The first step was making the cut, which he did with rounds of 73-75. And when it looked like the third round Saturday might get away from him, Brehaut holed a 60-foot par putt on No. 9, then shot 33 on the back for a 70.
That left him with a fleeting chance on Sunday at 8-over 218, and if nothing else a chance to return. The top 15 are exempt next year, and the top eight get invited to the Masters.
'One shot at a time,' he said. 'Don't do that to me. I'll be grinding over every shot.'
Brehaut always thought his game would stack up well in a U.S. Open, a major that rewards par, and he has found that to be true. He has made only eight birdies all week, but at Oakmont that's about par for the course.
'I'm not playing that great,' he said. 'I'm just managing it.'
It has been a great week off the course, too. His father flew in from the Bay Area, and when Brehaut woke up Saturday morning in the house he's renting a quarter-mile from the course, he couldn't find him.
'He came out here at 6 a.m. and was sitting on the patio here reading the newspaper,' Brehaut said. 'He's really jacked up.'
Any other course, and Niclas Fasth might still be near the top of the leaderboard.
At Oakmont Country Club, though, one bad hole has a way of becoming a bunch.
Three birdies in his first 10 holes had Fasth near the top of the leaderboard at 3 over. But he got into trouble with a double bogey on the par-3 13th, and dropped two more strokes over the next three holes.
'Not that I had much momentum today, but I lost whatever I had from there,' said Fasth, who finished with a 5-over 75. 'It goes quick.'
His only consolation is that he's not out of it. At 7-over 217, he's only five strokes behind leader Aaron Baddeley.
'Straight bogey-bogey, and it's easy to just fold,' he said. 'But you know, everybody's going to do that.'
Sky blue must be the new black.
So many players wore shirts of that shade Saturday that it looked like the U.S. Open uniform.
'Very unusual,' Stephen Ames said. 'I saw Chad (Campbell) coming down 18 and I went, `Nice shirt.' I think everybody had blue on.'
European players are known for their fashion daring -- if Ian Poulter is stuck for a Halloween costume, he can pull out Saturday's outfit and go as a bumblebee. But guys from both sides of the pond were in blue moods for the third round.
Paul Casey and Angel Cabrera were bordering on Carolina blue. Ames, Bubba Watson, Nick Dougherty and Tiger Woods went with a much brighter shade. Think Easter or robin's eggs. And Woods and Dougherty could have been twins, their shirts matched so well.
Even the law-enforcement details that tail the players were in light blue.
'I was trying to blend in with the security guards,' Watson said.
The distraction isn't always playing with Tiger Woods. Sometimes, it's playing in the group in front of him.
Jerry Kelly was on the par-3 sixth tee when he saw a horde of photographers, television, print reporters and security gather about 10 yards away to watch Woods play his second shot to the fifth.
Kelly looked perturbed.
'Be aware that there are other players on the tee getting ready to hit,' he scowled, sounding like a headmaster. 'Be very aware.'
Kelly wasn't nearly as irked by the distraction he had on the 12th hole. He was getting ready to tee off on the par-5 when he saw good friend and fellow Wisconsinite Steve Stricker coming up the 18th.
Kelly decided to watch, and good thing. Stricker holed out from the fairway for a birdie that gave him a 2-under 68.
'That was awesome,' Kelly said.
As he spoke, Kelly spotted Stricker walking toward him.
'We're talking about you right now. Your nose itching?' Kelly said. 'Come here. Nice job, man.'
Ben Curtis made the local fans happy by wearing a Steelers visor again. Good thing they didn't look closely at the rest of his outfit.
On his shirt was a very small Cleveland Browns helmet.
The diehard Browns fan, who has a deal with Reebok to wear NFL apparel, was booed loudly when he wore Cleveland gear at the 84 Lumber Classic a few years ago. He knew better last year and wore Steelers gear as he won the tournament.
He wasn't taking chances at the U.S. Open, making sure Steelers gear was on prominent display.
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