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Pinehurst Pushes Golfers' Imaginations to the Fringe

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PINEHURST — A little rain fell on the greens inPinehurstTuesday, but nothing could dampen the spirits of the golf pros preparing for theU.S. Open.

For several weeks, farmers in the state have been trying to imagine what a few drops would feel like; the staff at Pinehurst has been trying to imagine what rain would make their course look like. In their minds, it was a beautiful green.

Imagination is a powerful thing, just ask the pros.

"You seem to practice every situation Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then you hit it in some goofy place on Thursday and you say, 'I never thought I would hit it there.' So the bottom line is that you have to use your imagination," said golf pro Jeff Sluman.

As Pinehurst prepared for a couple days of rain, players worked on their short game with a little creativity.

"You have to have your imagination because you have to do a lot of things out there," said golf pro Payne Stewart. "I think that is exactly what should be tested at the U.S. Open."

The world's best players are preparing to do battle with one of the world's best courses. Most think the golf course will win. As for the players' preparation plans, "just hit a lot of chip shots and practice shots around the greens during the practice round," said golf pro Tom Kite.

At most U.S. Open courses there is rough around the greens. Players simply grab their lob wedges and hit flop shots, but not at Pinehurst. Donald Ross' hump-back greens and rolling collars require every shot in the players' bags.

"Yesterday, I counted up how many clubs I chipped with around the greens, and I used nine different clubs," Stewart said.

"I think you're going to see a lot of different things," Kite said. "You're going to see wedges, you're going to see 5-irons, 6-irons, 7-irons; you're going to see 3-woods hit from off the edge of the green, and a lot of putts. There's probably 13 or 14 clubs in the bag that you can pull out on some of these chip shots."

With rain forecast over the next two days, the greens will soften, while the imagination required to play the course will grow sharper.

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Bob Holliday, Reporter
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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