The hills of Olympic are no place for a gimp, and Chamblee managed only by popping pills as if they were Tic-Tacs. "If I took any more, I'd probably die," he said before missing the cut. "The U.S. Open is important, but it's not that important."
David Eger also came to Olympic leaning on an enlarged perspective. Eger was the boy wonder of golf administration: His career included two tours of duty at the PGA Tour and a stint as the USGA's tournament director from 1992 to '95, during which he was responsible for setting up the Open courses. That's a job destined to draw some scorn, but Eger's name still provokes strong feelings in golf circles because of what some people describe as a haughty management style and because of his role in the infamous decision to pull the plug on the '96 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Though Eger is a regular on what he calls "the amateur cocktail circuit" (he won this year's Crump Trophy at Pine Valley), this Open marked his return to the kingdom he once ruled, and from the wrong side of the ropes things looked a little different. "A lot of people who make their living playing golf have no perspective," Eger said last Thursday night, washing down his 78 with a beer in the clubhouse. "Hey, nobody's curing cancer out here. It's just a game, but too many people lose sight of that."
Eger, 46, bounced around the Tour for 3� years in the mid-'70s, and, after regaining his amateur status, won the 1988 U.S. Mid-Amateur. He has always had the game to qualify for the Open, but this was the first year he tried. "I never felt comfortable with the idea of taking a spot from a player, which would have cost someone the chance to earn prize money," Eger said.
Though he laughed off the notion of a conspiracy by his former colleagues, Eger was given a numbing 3:10 p.m. tee time on Thursday and grouped with Casey Martin, who was making Open history. ( Martin and his cart had qualified in Cincinnati, but only after his double bogey on the 36th hole forced him to take part in a playoff for the final spot.) Eger, saying he was "spooked like a horse" by all the hullabaloo, doubled the 1st hole and never recovered, although he shot a 71 on Friday. Missing the cut was a mild disappointment, but no more than that. Speaking for all the qualifiers, Eger said, "I was just grateful for the opportunity to play."