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Two caddies get rounds of their lives

When Dan Gaze and Dan Egan arrived early Tuesday at Olympia Fields Country Club, they didn't realize they soon would have a story to tell their grandchildren.

The club's caddie master, Kevin Labriola, promptly told them they would be carrying the bags for a group that included Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.

"We didn't believe him," said Egan, 21, who was assigned to Jordan. "Then we saw some people on the tee. We really picked up."

The loop of their lives was more than a casual round for Woods. The world's No. 1 player was in town to test-drive the course for next month's U.S. Open.

According to the caddies who were trying to keep score in their heads, Woods shot a 68 or a 69 on the par-70 layout. The defending Open champion had five birdies and three or four bogeys, they said.

Woods used mostly fairway woods and irons off the tee on the tight, tree-lined course. The caddies estimated he played only four or five drivers, and he missed four fairways.

Afterward, Woods told Vince Greci, the club's tournament chairman, "It's a great course, and it's going to be a great Open."

Woods didn't see Olympia Fields at its toughest Tuesday because there barely was any wind. Nor did Woods play with slick Open greens and devious pin positions.

"He said if the conditions were the same for all four days of the tournament, the Open record would be broken," said Gaze, 19. "He said if we get any wind, it will be a lot tougher."

Greci was amazed to see Woods blow his drive past the fairway bunkers on the par-4, 460-yard 18th hole. Leaving himself only 120 yards to the pin, Woods hit a 58-degree wedge that spun off the front part of the green. He made a two-putt for par.

Gaze noted Woods seemed to be playing conservatively. When he asked if he would always use a driver on 18, Woods said, "It depends on what I have to do."

Traditionally, Woods likes to visit that year's U.S. Open course so he knows what to practice the week before the tournament. This time he did it as part of a holiday weekend golf marathon with Jordan.

Woods played 36 holes with Jordan on Sunday at the Merit Club in Gurnee and then went for another doubleheader Monday at Rich Harvest Farm in Sugar Grove. Jordan is a member of both clubs.

On Tuesday, Woods, Jordan and two of Jordan's friends arrived at Olympia Fields at 6:40 a.m. The players had the course to themselves because Monday had been the last day for member play before the Open.

Labriola, though, was advised to have caddies on hand early Tuesday in anticipation of pros like Woods making side trips to Olympia Fields before heading to this week's tournament, the Memorial outside of Columbus, Ohio. Craig Parry also played Olympia Fields on Tuesday.

Gaze, a Steger resident who attends Indiana University, said the prospect of caddying for Woods initially had him shaking.

"I didn't know what he would want me to do," Gaze said. "I knew the rough was long, and I didn't want to lose one of his balls in there."

Woods, though, put Gaze at ease. He didn't ask for help on putts and often used a range finder for distances.

While little conversation took place in the foursome, Gaze found Woods approachable. At one point, Woods asked Gaze if he played sports in high school.

"I figured he would keep to himself, but the conversation was easy to come by," Gaze said. "He was easy to talk to. I had a blast."

Egan said caddying for Jordan "was awesome." But it wasn't easy. He said Jordan struggled, shooting in the 90s.

"He was all over the place," said Egan, a Frankfort resident who attends Wisconsin. "I had to do a lot of work."

Jordan got a firsthand lesson about the rigors of U.S. Open rough. While Woods hit driver-wedge on 18, Jordan took three shots to get out of the thick grass before finally reaching the greenside sand trap en route to a triple bogey, Greci said.

Woods might have played better than Jordan, but Egan got the best of Gaze financially. Jordan tipped Egan $200, while Woods gave Gaze $100, the caddies said.

"I would have done it for free," Gaze said. "Tiger gave me a ball. That's got to be worth more than $100."


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