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OPEN TO ROUGH, TOUGH COURSES.

Byline: DAVE SHELBURNE Golf

The winner, again, is the United States Golf Association.

Birdie Kim put a spectacular exclamation mark on the 60th annual U.S. Women's Open by holing a 90-foot bunker shot to secure victory on her final hole Sunday. But the USGA already had hard-stamped its latest championship with its own distinctive mark.

For the second time in little more than a week, the course and par prevailed in a national final. Kim finished 3-over-par seven days after Michael Campbell could do no better than even par in winning the U.S. Open.

Technology doesn't fix everything.

Well, maybe it does in the U.S. Senior Open, which is next up in this year's national championship rotation for the top three professional golf tours. The 50-over Champions Tour, which takes on NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio, July 14-17, has been faring considerably better against par in its annual USGA tests.

Winners have been bettering par almost every year since the first national senior championship in 1980.

The U.S. Senior Open was formidable enough in its early years, holding champions as strong as Arnold Palmer (1981 at Oakland Hills), Billy Casper (1983 at Hazeltine) and Miller Barber (1984 at Oak Hill) to over- par victories.

Par even held up against the two most successful major winners in the history of the Champions Tour. Eight-time senior major champion Jack Nicklaus (1991 at Oakland Hills) and seven-time senior major champ Hale Irwin (1998 at Riviera) failed to break par in U.S. Senior Open victories.

More often than not, the senior winners have beaten the course in their national championship, breaking par in 17 of the 25 U.S. Senior Opens, dating to Roberto De Vicenzo's 3-under-par win at Winged Foot in the inaugural event.

The 50-and-over group has been even hotter at the top in the past 20 years, producing 16 sub-par winners, including a record 17-under victory by Irwin at Saucon Valley in 2000 and a 12-under performance by Peter Jacobson in his triumph last year at Bellerive.

Par probably will take a pummeling again next month in the 26th U.S. Senior Open. But here's hoping the USGA makes those fairways a little tighter, grows that rough a little higher, leaves those greens a little firmer and makes the level of difficulty similar to that seen in these past two Opens.

Just one week a year, golf for all of the best players in the world - the seniors as well as the men and women - should be as tough as it is for most of the rest of us all the time.

--Class in defeat: Annika Sorenstam's bid for the first Grand Slam in 75 years ended; the 34-year-old, seven-time LPGA Player of the Year missed too many fairways, greens and putts in an uncharacteristic 12- over-par finish at Cherry Hills.

She had expected to contend, had won eight of her previous 10 LPGA events, including the first two majors - the Kraft Nabisco Championship and LPGA Championship - and arrived with 62 career tour victories, including nine majors. She showed up mentally and physically prepared, leading the tour in driving, scoring and greens in regulation.

She never challenged after an opening round 1-over 71, finishing 75-73-77. And then the most successful golfer in the world showed why she is the class of her tour, cheering the crowd for cheering her and graciously accepting failure because she had tried her best.

``I'm disappointed,'' Sorenstam said. ``But I know in my heart that I gave it my all.''

As golf announcer Johnny Miller likes to say: great stuff.

--Names in the game: PGA Tour veterans and former UCLA All-Americans Tom Pernice Jr. and Duffy Waldorf qualified Monday for the British Open. Pernice did so with a North Course-record 8-under-par 64 en route to sharing medalist honors at 134 over two rounds at the North and South courses at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J.

It was the second time in a month Pernice has had the low score in a qualifying round for a major championship. He also did so to claim a U.S. Open berth.

Waldorf, a Northridge resident who played for Taft High of Woodland Hills before he was the 1985 college Player of the Year at UCLA, finished at 135 at Canoe Brook. The British Open be July 14-17 at St. Andrews.

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

BIRDIE KIM

Box:

ON THE GREEN

BY DAVE SHELBURNE
COPYRIGHT 2005 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 29, 2005
Words:744
Previous Article:LOCAL NOTEBOOK: VALENCIA'S AMIRA QUALIFIES FOR U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR.
Next Article:BRIEFLY.


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