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Pete Dye will speak for itself this week

Sporting knee-deep rough and greens harder than your aunt's day-old, overbaked brownies, each year the U.S. Open prides itself in humbling the world's greatest golfers.

By tricking up magnificent layouts such as Pebble Beach and Shinnecock Hills, the USGA makes a mockery of what should be golf's best week.

United States Golf Association suits justify the practice, claiming they merely are "identifying the best golfer in the world."

Fortunately for West Virginia's best, neither the WVGA nor Pete Dye Golf Club brass have such an evil streak.

They simply will let Pete Dye speak for itself this week.

Beginning Monday, the John Rosses and Pat Carters of the Mountain State converge on Bridgeport's slice of golf heaven for the West Virginia Open.

The three-day, 72-hole event should produce quite a test.

Pete Dye was softened somewhat by heavy rains earlier in the week, but scorchers on Friday and Saturday have begun to bring out the course's teeth once again.

By tee time Monday, conditions should be ideal.

"Hopefully the greens should start to dry out a bit," Pete Dye assistant golf professional Al Hromulak said. "They've been a little soft, but other than that the course is in perfect shape."

Perfect shape at Pete Dye means prudent golf. Errant tee shots mean little chance of reaching greens in regulation.

Missing greens equals disaster.

"The hard part is if you miss the greens," Hromulak said. "Sometimes you have an impossible shot."

That often was the scenario two years ago when Pete Dye hosted the West Virginia Amateur. Scores soared due in part to downpours and a lack of course knowledge throughout the field.

Neither should be a factor the week. The forecast is player-friendly and many of the top pros have a least a working knowledge of the course.

Which leaves the tournament as it should be -- a true and fair test of golf.

Ross, the defending champion, has the patience and solid iron play to carry the favorite label.

Pat Carter, the five-time defending West Virginia Amateur champion, has always played well at Pete Dye and would love to capture his first Open.

Scott Davis of Hurricane, who bested Carter for the 1998 Open title, also should contend.

Make no mistake, the state's best player will be identified this week. Best of all, Pete Dye doesn't have to compromise a single blade of rough to prove it.

Sports editor Anthony Hanshew can be reached at 626-1444.

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