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Notes Home-Course Advantage Cambos Back

U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- If home-course advantage in golf meant as much as home-court advantage does in basketball, Andy Svoboda would be feeling pretty good heading into the week.
He is, after all, the only player entered in the U.S. Open who has logged 2,000 rounds at Winged Foot, the course where the toughest test in golf begins Thursday.
'The best experience I've ever had,' Svoboda said Monday of the support he got during an early practice round.
Svoboda is one of 77 players who made it to the U.S. Open via qualifying. He was one of 18 to qualify at the sectional in Summit, N.J., the same place where Michelle Wie missed out.
But while most of those qualifiers will come and go quietly, Svoboda will certainly draw his share of support this week. The 26-year-old estimates he's played 150 rounds a year at Winged Foot since he was 12. He has won the club championship four times.
He made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur on the course two years ago, then turned pro and has come up short at Q-school the last two years. He is on the Hooters Tour, where he ranks 84th on the money list, with earnings this year of only $4,600.
The USGA, as usual, is setting up the U.S. Open course to be a bear. Svoboda, who has seen it on good days and bad, isn't intimidated at the site of his course in a less-forgiving state.
'As far as how it normally plays for the members, they usually don't have rough anywhere near this height,' he said of the grass that's growing between 5 and 10 inches high. 'But for a lot of the club championships ... the course plays really hard.'
Last year, journeyman qualifier Jason Gore -- ranked 818th in the world -- took Pinehurst by storm, playing his way into the final pairing on Sunday before flaming out.
Maybe with home-course advantage, Svoboda could be that guy this year.
'I'm not going to let myself get ahead like that,' Svoboda said. 'I'm just going to go about my business out there and whatever happens, happens. It's going to be great.'
Michael Campbell enters this year's U.S. Open as a defending champion, a much different status than last year when he was making a decent living, but hardly making himself a star, on the European Tour.
How does he feel about his chances this year, as compared to last?
'It's the same,' Campbell said. 'Last year, I thought I was hitting the ball pretty well and giving myself chances. I feel the same this year.'
Because of last year, it wouldn't come as a shock if Campbell won this year, even though he hasn't been doing much winning of late. His best finish this year is a tie for fifth last month at the British Masters. Besides that, he hasn't finished higher than 12th.
Coming into last year's Open at Pinehurst, he had three top-10 finishes.
'The results haven't shown it, but I can tell how I'm hitting the ball,' Campbell said. 'I'm feeling a lot better. I feel like if I can keep the ball in play, get it down the middle, I'm going to have a chance.'
Because of the U.S. Open's limited field of exemptions and large number of qualifiers, many familiar names and some PGA TOUR regulars won't be at Winged Foot this week.
Among those who failed to qualify are: John Daly, Joe Ogilvie, Jeff Maggert, Justin Rose, Kirk Triplett, Jonathan Kaye, Craig Parry, Joe Durant, Jesper Parnevik, Kevin Sutherland and Jason Gore.
Rose played well enough to get into a playoff at sectional qualifying, but he didn't think his score would be good enough when he finished and left town before the playoff began.
Jeff Sluman heard plenty of horror stories about Winged Foot, typical any time the U.S. Open comes to this man-sized course. But his first look at the course Monday, even playing in a group of big-hitters like Tiger Woods, didn't make him feel like he couldn't handle it.
'I thought it was perfect. The width of the fairways ... were very fair and almost generous,' he said.
Then he thought about what he said.
'Hopefully, I won't live to regret those words when I air it out,' he said.
Sluman was the first to hit from every fairway Monday while playing with Woods, Charles Howell III and Bo Van Pelt. But all of them were tested on the par-3 third hole, which they played from the back tee.
There are two tees for the U.S. Open, one at 243 yards on the card, the other at 216 yards. Asked if he played from the back tee -- Sluman said it was 234 yards to the front -- he replied, 'I hope there's not another tee behind there.'
Fans stood three-deep down both sides of the par-3 10th hole at Winged Foot after it was posted that Tiger Woods had signed up for a 1:14 p.m. practice round at No. 10 with John Cook, Tommy Armour III and Madalitso Muthiya of Zambia.
Before long, people were asking, 'Where's Tiger?' He wound up playing the front side a half-hour later. ... Vijay Singh's victory moved him up to No. 3 in the world ranking, while Ernie Els slipped to No. 7. ... Els withdrew from the Barclays Classic last week and went home to London to relax with his kids. Only his wife, Liezl, joined him at Winged Foot, and she sat alone in the grass surrounding the practice green, watching him work.
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