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Hansen struggled at Wente

Matt Hansen thought he had just finished a round of golf, but it looked more like water torture.

The Nationwide Tour pro from Atwater staggered away after an opening round of 73 last week at the Livermore Wine Country Championship. One day later, he double-bogeyed two of the final four holes to miss the 36-hole cut by one.

All players bleed in golf. It's just internal or, in another sense, it's disguised by splashy clothes and scenic venues. Make no mistake, Hansen hemorrhaged along with everyone else last week in the wine country.

"I don't think I played on greens last year (on the PGA Tour) that were as fast," Hansen said in reference to the sidewalk-quick putting surfaces at Wente Vineyards. "There were just no easy holes out there. You had to pay 100 percent attention to everything around you on every single hole."

Wayward iron shots cost Hansen (73-76—149) his ticket for the weekend. On the tight par-4 sixth (his 15th) Friday, he pull-hooked a 3-iron into oblivion. Three holes later from the fairway, he pulled a 6-iron approach into a hazard he didn't even know was there.

"I didn't strike the ball well enough to give me enough chances," he said.

Hansen wasn't alone. Veteran pro Omar Uresti, who has qualified for six U.S. Opens, double-bogeyed his final hole and still won the tournament by two strokes. Incredibly, he won with an even-par 288 for 72 holes and became the second player in the 18-year history of the Nationwide to win an event at par or higher. In 1991, Roger Salazar captured the South Texas Open at 3 over.

It was believed that heavy rain produced the Nationwide's highest scores during the inaugural tournament last year at Wente Vineyards. But this year, the event was contested in sunshine and varying degrees of wind all four days, and scores still soared.

Conclusion: The slick greens, nasty rough and stunning elevation changes make the Greg Norman-designed course one of the country's toughest. The 75.235 stroke-average was the highest on the Nationwide since the 75.421 during the 2002 Monterey Peninsula Classic at Bayonet.

Sunday's final round at Wente Vineyards seemed more like a misery march. Hardly a birdie was recorded during the Golf Channel's telecast while the greens baked and the wind howled.

Question: Will the tour soften the course setup via shorter rough and more acceptable greens next year?

"I thought the course setup was fantastic. I was a little surprised, but that's a tough golf course," Nationwide spokesman Tim Benton said. "We like to think there is no difference between the Nationwide and the PGA tours regarding quality of play and venue. That course very easily could have hosted a PGA Tour event."

Then again, the weather conditions may have overwhelmed the course setup on Sunday, when green-speed estimates ranged as high as a surreal 14 on the Stimp-meter.

"Our agronomists and everyone else will take a look at the results. We realize the course was extremely tough," Benton said. "But overall, we were very pleased. We don't have a chance to play a Greg Norman course in a beautiful setting very often. For many reasons, things went very well."

Things proceeded nicely, of course, if you clutched a wine glass rather than a 5-iron.

"Unless we play a tournament this year in the context of a natural disaster, this will go down as the second-toughest course in the history of the tour," Benton said.

THE SHAG BAG — The U.S. Pro Golf Tour incorrectly listed Ceres' Ryan Thornberry as an amateur during its tournament last week at Diablo Grande. The former Cal State Stanislaus star turned pro several tournaments ago and tied for 11th last week. His $2,561.17 was his biggest check to date. ... Morgan Pressel, 18, became the youngest player to win a women's major last weekend at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Even more remarkable is the fact she would have won the U.S. Women's Open two years ago if not for a holed bunker shot on the 72nd hole by Birdie Kim.

HOLES-IN-ONE — David Dodd, Modesto, 103-yard 13th at River Oaks, Ceres, pitching wedge. ... Robert Ginn (86), Modesto, 13th at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 8-iron. ... David Kochoevar, Oakdale, 75-yard sixth at Oakdale CC, sand wedge. ... Pete McCormick, Copperopolis, 121-yard seventh at Saddle Creek, Copperopolis, 8-iron. ... Henry Correa, Tracy, 100-yard 17th at Jack Tone, 8-iron. ... Jim Pollard, Stevinson, 120-yard fifth at El Rio CC, Mojave Valley, Ariz., 8-iron.

Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or 578-2302.

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