The U.S. Open is a month away, but with Tiger Woods attracting an unprecedented amount of attention, officials at the USGA and Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., are making security preparations fit for a president (even if Bill Clinton doesn't show up). "You can put him in the context of any rock star or politician," Open general chairman Dennis Spurgeon says of Woods. "He's the Number 1 personality in golf right now, and with that comes concerns."
There will be 50% more security than at last year's Open at Oakland Hills, according to Steve Worthy, the USGA's championship manager. Normally two to four uniformed guards would accompany Woods (and selected other marquee players such as Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman), but at Congressional between nine and 12 will be assigned to Woods. As many as 40 plainclothes state police officers—some of them armed—will roam the gallery. The heightened security will even extend to the Congressional mailroom, where all arriving packages will be X-rayed.
Complicating matters is a probable visit by the First Golfer, a 13 handicapper who lives only 10 minutes, by helicopter, from the course. The White House has already informed tournament organizers that the President is likely to attend. While a final decision won't be made until the last minute, the Secret Service is expected to begin sniffing under divots at Congressional sometime soon.
In fact, preparations are so intense at the club that it was hard to tell if Spurgeon was joking when he said that he was building a 20-foot-high wall around the perimeter of the course. "We don't want to make security overwhelming," says Joe Corless, a private security consultant working his first Open, "but we want it to be there."
Norman's Tough New Turf Turning Heads
Always the entrepreneur, Greg Norman has never been one to let grass grow under his feet as he hopped from one business opportunity to the next. But that might change now that one of his companies, Greg Norman Turf, has developed a strain of grass that could change the surface of sports.
The main product of Norman Turf, based in Avon Park, Fla., is GN-1, a hybrid bermuda that has a deep-green hue—considerably darker than the standard bermuda used on most Tour courses—and an extremely high tolerance of low temperatures and root-munching organisms called nematodes. Four courses use GN-1, including the TPC at Sugarloaf, a Norman design in Duluth, Ga., which will host this week's BellSouth Classic. Several other courses under construction plan to try the turf.
What has really whetted the Shark's appetite, however, is the turf's potential beyond golf. Last year the NFLs Baltimore Ravens became the first professional sports team to play on GN-1. (The Atlanta Braves' Turner Field also has the turf.) The Ravens placed Norman's strain atop a layer of artificial turf in Memorial Stadium. The GN-1 roots grew downward through the plastic grass, thus increasing the turf's durability. When a player makes a cut on the GN-1, for instance, he might rip up the surface, but the roots are more likely to stay intact. "I've been in grass since 1983, and I've never seen a grass this aggressive," says Vince Patterozzi, the Ravens' head groundskeeper. "It repairs itself."
By heating the grass to 74° from underneath, Patterozzi and his crew kept it growing into winter. "We were mowing plush, green grass at the end of December," says Patterozzi. "Usually bermuda goes dormant by Halloween. This stuff can take the cold, and it doesn't need much light. It's the grass of the future."
For now, GN-1's major drawback is that it sounds too good to be true. "I've seen an unbelievable interest in the grass," says Norman. "This year we're totally sold out."