USGA groupings whimsical as ever

When he learned that his boss Fred Funk (5'8") had been paired with Jeff Sluman  (5' 7'')  and Toru Taniguchi (5'5") for the first two rounds of the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, caddie Mark Long quipped, "When was the last time you were the tallest player in your group?"

Well, the comedians from Far Hills, N.J., have released the groupings for the 2008 Open at Torrey Pines next week, and they're as whimsical as ever.

This year's joke on short people has a twist, though, because at 7:44 a.m. on Thursday, Tim Clark (5' 7'') and Craig Parry (5' 6'') will tee off with Robert "the Swedish Skyscraper" Karlsson (6' 5''). Ha, ha!

This reminds me of the 2005 Presidents Cup, when Vijay Singh and Clark of the International squad were set to take on Stewart Cink and Funk. On the first tee, Singh looked at Cink and said, “I’ve got my midget. Where’s yours?”

Okay, back to next week's pairings:

As usual, the USGA also gives us the Two Wilds and a Mild trio, at 8:06 a.m.: Woody Austin and Pat Perez will play with the mellow, congenial Frenchman Thomas Levet. Last year Austin and Perez played with the mellow, congenial Aussie Matthew Goggin. This is starting to look like some weird behavior-modification experiment. Next year, Austin and Perez will probably be paired with the mellow, congenial American Stewart Cink.

At 1:03 p.m. we get the group of recent Masters champions, non-Tiger and Phil division: Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson and Mike Weir.

And in keeping with its infatuation with long hitters, the USGA gives us the 1:47 p.m. group of gorillas: Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes and Brett Wetterich. (They're playing right behind defending U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, who would no doubt be part of the group if the Open allowed foursomes.)

The all-England club tees off at 1:14 p.m.: Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Luke Donald.

One missed opportunity: Champions tour big-shot and reigning U.S. Senior Open champion Brad Bryant tees off at 7:33 a.m., while his younger brother Bart doesn't go off until 12:52 p.m. Come on, USGA, where's the brotherly love?

I'm sure there are others here that I've missed. Anyone? ** John Garrity points out a few more interesting groups.

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by Kevin Cunningham