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Notes Tough to Hit Greens at Shinnecock

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- It's not easy keeping the ball on the slick, sloping greens at Shinnecock Hills.
Tom Byrum learned the hard way during a practice round.
At No. 13, with a stiff wind blowing in his face, Byrum hit five shots from about 110 yards - two from the rough, three more from the middle of the fairway.
Only one was on the green when Byrum walked up - clinging to the front left edge. Two balls came up short, another rolled off the back, the other slid off the right side.
It was the same situation at the par-3 17th, where the wind was blowing from the left as groups approached the 179-yard hole.
The foursome of Chad Campbell, Chris Riley, Kevin Sutherland and Chris Smith each hit two balls toward the green.
Of the eight shots, one hit the green and bounced over. The other seven didn't even come that close.
'Is it time to go home yet?' Smith said.
According to Phil Mickelson, that's not even the toughest par-3 on the course. His vote goes to famous No. 7, known as 'Redan.'
'I think the percentage of players who hit that green in regulation will be less than 20 percent,' he said. 'With that being the case, if you play it 2 over for the four rounds, that would be a pretty good score.'
Sergio Garcia put it a different way after watching Ernie Els strike a 4-iron about 6 feet right of the flag - and wind up in the left bunker.
'If you hit 17 greens, you should get 100 percent for greens in regulation,' Garcia said, 'because it's almost impossible to hit that green.'
Sergio Garcia was heckled mercilessly during the last U.S. Open on Long Island.
Still, he never considered staying away from this one.
Coming off a win at the Buick Classic, Garcia is among a lengthy list of favorites at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, where the Open begins Thursday.
Two years ago at Bethpage Black, Garcia was targeted by rowdy fans who counted his incessant waggles and made wisecracks about then-girlfriend Martina Hingis.
'I never had a doubt about coming back to New York,' he said. 'I just think it was a minority of the whole crowd. I felt like a lot of people were behind me. There was just this little group that was a little bit louder than the rest, and you could hear them more. But I felt like they were still very good to me.'
Garcia had no complaints after a practice round Tuesday.
'New York has been great to me,' he said. 'Everybody was congratulating me. It was nice to see. And I'm sure they're going to be great all week long.'
Jim Furyk has no illusions about defending his U.S. Open championship. After five months off from tournament golf, he's just happy to be playing.
Furyk surprised everyone by showing up at Shinnecock Hills on Monday, with every intention of playing. If his surgically repaired wrist doesn't give him any trouble before then, he plans to tee it up Thursday morning in the traditional pairing with the British Open and U.S. Amateur winners.
'My game is a little rusty, it's not in shape,' Furyk said. 'I'm going to have to hang in there and do the best I can.'
Furyk's best last year at Olympia Fields was better than anyone else. He tied the Open record of 272 and won by three shots over Stephen Leaney for his first major championship title.
But until last week he thought he'd be watching the Open on television. He had surgery March 22 to repair torn cartilage in his left wrist, and said then he wouldn't be playing in the Open.
Furyk said he began practicing recently and played a few rounds with his wrist feeling good. He checked with his surgeon, who gave him the OK to compete.
'The therapy right now is basically the golf,' he said. 'I put enough pressure on it and doing enough out there that it's getting stronger for the golf.'
Furyk said he is realistic about his chances at perhaps the toughest course anyone will play on the PGA Tour this year.
'I'm throwing myself into the fire this week, coming to the U.S. Open and not playing for as long as I have and playing a difficult golf course set up this tough,' he said. 'It's going to be a tough week, I'm going to have to grind it out.'
Camilo Villegas and Oscar Alvarez are the first players from Colombia to play in the U.S. Open. For Villegas, it's even more exciting - this is his first tournament as a pro.
'It's pretty special,' Villegas said. 'The first time a Colombian plays in an Open and it's two of us. It's my first tournament as a professional, and the entire country is following us.'
Both Villegas and Alvarez played college golf in the United States - Villegas at Florida and Alvarez at BYU.
Both also made it into the Open through qualifying, though Alvarez had to win a playoff after shooting 77 in his second qualifying round.
First-time major winners have captured six in a row, beginning with Rich Beem at the 2002 PGA Championship. He was followed by Mike Weir ('03 Masters), Jim Furyk (U.S. Open), Ben Curtis (British Open), Shaun Micheel (PGA) and Phil Mickelson ('04 Masters). ... Tiger Woods wrote in his name for the first tee time of Wednesday's practice round. If anyone had thoughts of joining him, someone else scribbled underneath, 'Don't even think about it!' ... There's been plenty of parity on the PGA Tour. Vijay Singh has won three times. Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia are two-time winners. Fifteen others have one victory apiece.
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