Golf: Europe aims to halt a roll at Baltusrol: Faldo leads a foreign contingent seeking to break an American stranglehold on the US Open which dates back to Jacklin's triumph in 1970

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Baltus Roll was not the luckiest of men but at least he became the first, possibly last, murder victim to have a golf course named after him. The programme for the 93rd US Open, which starts here this morning contains a photograph of a tombstone which lies in the Revolutionary cemetery in New Jersey. 'In memory,' it says, 'of Boltus (they made a grave error with an o instead of an a) Roll who was murdered February 22 1831.'

On Washington's birthday Mr Roll, a 61-year-old farmer, was dragged from his home by two men who beat him, robbed him and strangled him. One of the murderers committed suicide, the other died in jail. In 1895, which coincidentally was the year of the first US Open, another New Jersey farmer, Louis Keller, bought 500 acres of land and formed a golf club. They called it Baltusrol but the irony is that Mr Roll would not have had the wealth or social status to qualify for membership. That was open only to the upper crust, drawn mainly from Keller's New York Social Register, an arbitrary list of the 400 most prominent families.

The golf club - it costs dollars 30,000 ( pounds 20,000) to join plus an annual fee of dollars 4,200 - still draws on the big cheeses from the Big Apple and its pedigree is impeccable. It was only eight years old when it was awarded its first US Open. It was won by the Scottish professional, Willie Anderson, who was the club's head professional. Anderson went on to win an unprecedented three in a row. As the club grew in stature Albert W Tillinghast was given the job of designing and building two new courses, the Upper and Lower.

He did such a good job that this week Baltusrol hosts America's national championship for the seventh time and no club has been so conspicuously honoured. The Lower course, the scene of the US Open, has been revised by Robert Trent Jones and his son Rees. One of the most important elements is its 126 bunkers. And its length. It measures 7,152 yards and has a parsimonious par of 70. It finishes with two par fives and the 17th, at 630 yards, is the longest hole in championship golf.

The feeling here though is that Baltusrol is not as tough as it looks. One of the USGA's trademarks for a US Open is that the fairways are narrow and woe betide anyone who misses them for the rough is deliberately penal. This year the weather has been unkind to Baltusrol and they have not been able to grow the grass as high or as thick as they would have liked.

'It is the fairest course I've ever seen for a US Open,' Ian Woosnam said. 'I think the Europeans have their best chance of winning.' Tony Jacklin was the last, in 1970, to break the American stranglehold although recently Nick Faldo, Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie have gone close. There are 10 Europeans here. The most likely to have a successful tournament are Faldo, Woosnam, Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros.

Woosnam, who has not won for well over a year, was beaten in a play- off in the Honda Open in Hamburg last week. He has found a new wooden driver and with it has rediscovered his prodigious length off the tee. In the first round today the Welshman plays with Payne Stewart, the US Open champion in 1991, and John 'Wild Thing' Daly. In a practice round Daly found the front edge of the 17th green in two. It requires two almighty blows. Woosnam is also capable of hitting it in two.

Langer, the comfortable winner of the Masters at Augusta and the Volvo PGA at Wentworth, discounted the theory, often put forward at major championships, that only about 10 players in the field of 156 are capable of winning. 'It's not true,' he said. 'There are 50 to 70 people who can win this week.' Baltusrol's series of long par fours require a high approach shot and Langer has taken his one-iron out of his bag and substituted a five-wood.

Faldo, the world No 1, has worked long and hard to add a US Open to his portfolio of three Opens and two Masters and, like Woosnam, he was pleasantly surprised at the 'fairness' of Baltusrol. Faldo, who plays with the defending champion, Tom Kite, and the Texan amateur, Justin Leonard, believes the championship will be won and lost on greens that are getting quicker by the hour.

'I've thought about why the European record isn't good in the US Open and the only logical thing I can come up with is the speed of the contoured greens,' Faldo said. 'We are just not used to them. But then it is not so logical because our record at Augusta is very good. At least this time you have a chance of reaching the green from the rough although it will still require a hell of a good shot.' Faldo, who arrived in America last Thursday, played Pine Valley before arriving here and the design of the course has inspired him. 'It was fabulous,' he said.' I want to build one just like it in Britain.'

In his last two tournaments - the Volvo PGA at Wentworth and the Dunhill Masters at Woburn - Faldo missed the cut and finished 33rd. 'I've been working on my leg action but once I get on to the course I'm going to forget about all the technical stuff. I feel comfortable here. If I can get a good start . . .'

Jack Nicklaus won the championship on the last two occasions it was held at Baltusrol. In 1967 he shot 65 in the final round setting a 72-hole scoring record of 275. In 1980 - the year Ballesteros was disqualified after missing his tee time in the second round on Friday the 13th - Nicklaus shot 63 in the first round and went on to win with 272, eight under par. Big Jack was 40 then. Come Sunday evening Faldo, who is 36, would gladly settle for a similar score. The odds are against anyone lowering the record on the Lower course even though Baltusrol is not quite as murderous as it used to be.

Bernhard Langer was last night complaining of a neck injury which restricted his practice. He will decide this morning whether to play or not. Billy Ray Brown withdrew yesterday with a wrist injury.

HOLE-BY-HOLE GUIDE TO BALTUSROL

1 (470yds, par 4) A long and difficult par four. The tee shot needs to be placed between the left fairway bunkers and a small creek in the right rough. A long or middle iron required for semi-blind second shot to well-protected green.

2 (381yds, par 4) Cross bunkers 240 yards off the tee, a narrow fairway guarded by a deep bunker on the right and trees on the left will see drivers left in bags. Straightforward second shot but green slopes severely from right to left and an approach above the hole may lead to three putts.

3 (466yds, par 4) A new tee has lengthened this hole by 24 yards since 1980. Left to right dog-leg and nicely drawn tee shot will leave a middle-iron second. Likely to play as one of the most difficult holes on the course.

4 (194 or 162yds, par 3) Alternate tees will be used on Baltusrol's 'signature' hole, according to conditions and pin placements. A two-tiered green with a pond in front and bunkers at the back means four or five irons from the back tee and six or seven from the front.

5 (413yds, par 4) Extended by 20 yards since 1980. Bunkers on either side of the fairway encourage players to find the narrow strip of cut grass in the centre. An uphill second with middle or short iron is tougher due to elevated green sloping from right to left and back to front.

6 (470yds, par 4) A blind tee shot calls for length and accuracy. The fairway is crowned, so reducing its effective width. Second shot with long or middle iron to Baltusrol's largest and flattest green calls for accuracy and par will be a good score here.

7 (470yds, par 4) A new bunker, requiring a carry of 275 yards, has been added at the corner of this dog-leg right. Second shot calls for length and accuracy and a shallow, sloped green makes the hole a very tough par four.

8 (374yds, par 4) A shorter par four which should afford a birdie chance. Most players may use an iron or three wood off the tee to locate the prime position for a short-iron approach. A small, well-bunkered green but birdies likely to be plentiful.

9 (205yds, par 3) A new tee to the right of the original provides a different and alternate angle. A long iron will be necessary to find the small green surrounded by bunkers. Three will be a welcome score.

10 (454yds, par 4) The back nine starts just as severely as the front with a demanding par four. The tee shot nees to be left-centre of the fairway to prevent interference from overhanging branches. Green's humps and hollows demand a deft putting touch.

11 (428yds, par 4) Dog-leg from right to left with dense woods and thick rough prohibit cutting the corner. Second shot no more than a middle iron to a large, undulating green.

12 (193yds, par 3) A middle iron will be sufficient for a slightly downhill shot into a relatively large green, protected by three bunkers. After some of the difficulties in previous holes, a welcome relief for most of the players.

13 (401yds, par 4) Dog-leg from left to right which necessitates a strong tee shot - probably a three wood - to carry a stream crossing the fairway. A middle to short-iron second into a large unguarded green should not pose too many problems. One of the easier holes which should yield birdies.

14 (415yds, par 4) Trees on the left may force some players to opt for safety off the tee as accuracy, not distance, is the main factor. Another hole where a middle to short-iron second should provide respite in the form of birdies.

15 (430yds, par 4) A tee shot out of a narrow funnel of trees may intimidate some players but there is ample room to hit a driver. Medium second shot to green which slopes from right to left and back to front, so creating possible difficulties with chips and putts from above the hole.

16 (216 or 180yds, par 3) Like the fourth, can be moved to suit different circumstances. Long iron needed from the back and middle iron from the front. The yardage will be shortened when the pin is just behind front bunkers. Par will be a good score.

17 (630yds, par 5). At last, a par five - but what a par five] At 630 yards, the longest hole in championship golf and a genuine three-shotter. Only big hitters can hope to get home in two. Uphill third shot and well-bunkered green so may not yield too many birdies.

18 (542yds, par 5) The easiest hole on the course if the player can take advantage. A stream and pond lie 350 yards from the tee and should not pose problems with the second shot, unless the drive has strayed off-line. Could be as many birdies as pars and as many eagles as bogeys.

(Photograph omitted)

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