Justin Timberlake estuvo ayer 5 de junio durante la ronda de práctica del Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge, un torneo de golf masculino que se celebra en los Estados Unidos y que está organizado por Golf Digest y NBC Sports.
Timberlake’s greatest hit: his drive at the 1st on the US Open course
For anyone who has ever wondered what it might be like to take on a major championship course as played by the leading professionals, for anyone who has yearned to see Justin Timberlake suffer for *NSYNC’s manifest crimes against good music – the time has come.
At 2pm today in San Diego, California, in what has to rank as one of the more intriguing TV reality-show concepts in recent memory, Timberlake, the former boy-band member now reinvented as an R&B innovator, will play 18 holes at Torrey Pines, the venue for next week’s US Open. He will play his round with Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Matt Lauer, the co-host of NBC’s Today, America’s most popular morning television show, and John Atkinson, a cancer sufferer who was one of 56,000 people who entered a competition organised by Golf Digest magazine.
The course will be as long (7,600 yards), the fairways as narrow, the rough as high and the greens as mind-numbingly quick as when the pros play. To complete the sense of authenticity, members of the public will be allowed to watch proceedings from the stands erected for next week’s tournament. The only difference between today and next week will be the scores.
«No way», said Tiger Woods when asked if a 10-handicap golfer could break 100 on a US Open set-up. «People don’t realise how thick the rough is and how difficult it is controlling the shots. I know Matt and Tony are good players but until they experience it they have no idea».
The best player in the world may have been sceptical but he sounded positively encouraging compared with some of his fellow pros. «They won’t be able to think straight», said Padraig Harrington, and Colin Montgomerie suggested the celebrity players would not come close to breaking three figures and wished them the best of British luck.
Geoff Ogilvy, who won the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot with a score of five over par, said a 10-handicap golfer might have a chance of breaking 100 if he played sensibly. «If they bunt [their drives] on every hole and keep their chip shots below the hole then they might have a chance», he said.
That is the depressingly negative news. The cheerily upbeat news is that Timberlake and company have had plenty of time to prepare for the agony that lies ahead. Amid the kind of security normally seen at a G8 summit, all four amateurs have been playing practice rounds at Torrey Pines this week in an attempt to unlock its mysteries, or at least try to find ways of numbing the pain. One seasoned golf observer who was able to break through the cordon thrown up by the event’s organisers described himself as «pleasantly surprised» after watching Timberlake hit a few shots. «He was striping the ball», he said.
This will come as no surprise to those who have followed the singer’s golf career. He is devoted to the game, so much so that he took time during his British tour last year to play at many of the top courses, including the Old Course at St Andrews. Next year he will be the celebrity host of his own PGA Tour event in Las Vegas. «He practises every day, has a swing coach and takes his clubs everywhere he goes», said a spokesman.
He is, it is fair to say, a decent player. According to the United States Golf Association, which records the handicap of every amateur in America, Timberlake plays off three, with his last 20 scores ranging between 76 and 86. This is a good record, but one which should be treated with caution – the scores were recorded at his home club in Collierville, Tennessee, where he is accustomed to the course’s challenges.
The best player in the amateur four-ball is Romo, who last month shot 75 in the first stage of US Open qualifying – a respectable score but not low enough to advance to the next stage. Lauer is listed with a handicap of six and Atkinson, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, is 8.2.
«The conventional wisdom is that I’ve got no chance of breaking 100», Atkinson said yesterday. «But I’m facing the same kind of challenge in my life. This is just another challenge».
Such has been the interest in the stunt that bookies in Las Vegas have been offering odds, with Timberlake the surprising 5-4 favourite to card the best score. The chances of anyone shooting in the 90s are rated at 5-1.
However, the chances of any of them having a good time while embarrassing themselves in public are negligible, according to the leading golf coach Butch Harmon. «It will be the greatest golfing experience of their lives», he says. «And they will be miserable every step of the way».
Contenders Prepare for U.S. Open Challenge
The day has finally arrived! Our three celebs and contest winner John Atkinson spent Thursday practicing on Torrey Pines and are ready to go
One hesitates to make too much of a practice round, but if Thursday’s rehearsal for today’s Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge is any indication, hey, these guys may just do it. Break 100 that is.
They’ve certainly come well-armed. Challenge winner John Atkinson, who along with fellow amateur competitors Justin Timberlake and Matt Lauer, played the Torrey Pines South Course, brought high-powered help. Atkinson’s caddy is sport psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella. Timberlake’s caddy is the country’s leading teacher, Butch Harmon. And Lauer had the former No. 1 player in the world, Greg Norman, on his bag. Tony Romo, their fourth, arrived too late to practice yesterday. Lauer and Timberlake impressed, especially with iron shots — Timberlake stuck a wedge to four feet on 18 — and Atkinson was steady in his nine-hole round, though all found the kikuyu rough gnarly and tough.
In a pre-round meeting with USGA and NBC, there was plenty of ribbing. Caddy Norman asked the first question: «Are we going to have spotters?… all due respect to the golfers, of course». When the USGA’s Mike Davis laid out the rules and reminded the players that only their caddies are allowed to provide advice, NBC’s Roger Maltbie, who will be walking the course with the four, asked if he might give them any help. «Well, first of all, it might not be right», replied Davis to laughter.
Norman, who called the Torrey Pines set-up «the hardest, fairest test I’ve seen so far at a U.S. Open». complimented Golf Digest, NBC and especially the USGA on the event. «[For amateurs] to be able to understand what the U.S. Open is really like from a player’s point of view?This is the best thing to happen to golf», said Norman. Timberlake added that such an event could only happen in golf. «We can’t play quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys at the Super Bowl, he said». «This is the only game where an amateur can play a US Open course from the tips, just like the pros».
According to the Southern California Golf Association, which rated the course for the USGA yesterday, it will play at a rating of 79.7 and a slope of 153, not quite as difficult as predicted. John Atkinson, Index 8.1, becomes an 11; Matt Lauer, a 5.6, and Justin Timberlake a 6.0, will play as 8-handicaps; Tony Romo, Index 2.2; will play to a 3.
(In rounds today the four Open Challenge runners-up — Ross Troike of Memphis, Erik Norton of Boston, Matt Rice of LA, and Phil Dembure of Atlanta–shot 95, 99, 101 and 106 respectively. All are 8-handicap or lower.)
The players will be miked during Friday’s taping, to air before Sunday’s final-round broadcast. NBC producer Molly Solomon reassured them about inadvertent comments making the broadcast: «Don’t worry; we’re not out to embarrass you with the audio», she said.
«What about the video?» asked Timberlake.
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