No 58s this week. Nobody turned Avenel into a dart board after all, which surprised many. A lot of customers got turned away, which startled everybody. And some players got turned off, which is about par for any tournament.

So what Dave Barr said and Greg Norman hinted at should be taken with several grains of bunker sand.

Smiling, but not happy, Norman said after an adventure that left him tied for fourth: "I've got to see if I'm coming back. Before, it was automatic; now, I might have to think about it."

"There'll be a lot of guys passing it up {next year}," said Barr, after a final-round 76 that included somebody "throwing or kicking" a rock a few inches from his ball in a bunker at the devilish ninth hole.

Week-long, there was casual mud. Unplayable Fords and Buicks in the parking lots. The hottest drivers were in cars rather than in pros' bags. An agreeable craftsman, Tom Kite, won.

One makes observations instead of judgments on a new venture such as Avenel. So . . .

The tournament is about 200 marshals away from being first-class. Officials are justifiably proud of coaxing 50,000 fans to Avenel, but ought to be spanked for not deputizing enough stern minds to maintain order.

Avenel is for sitters instead of walkers. You can see every shot you want to; getting there is troublesome, unless you strap a saddle to a goat. Par for fans is a six-pack.

The course seems to offer unique variety to the game's best shotmakers. It has one hole that is close to unfair, the 239-yard par 3 third; three holes later comes a 479-yard par 5 that has players thinking eagle.

At a fairly short 6,864 yards, a player is as close as the next tee to a birdie. Sometimes better. Also, he is no farther than a crooked shot from oblivion. Or a hacker's tantrum.

Yes, even the best of the best experienced what might be called Avenel anguish this week. That would be Norman drowning out the cicadas' serenade on the 14th tee yesterday by yelling:

"Thanks a lot, you jerk of a course."

He had just tried to drive a par-4 hole. Off into the distance, 301 yards away, sat a green about the size of your patio. No sweat. Norman, the brute, wanted to stop his ball in an area no larger than a lounge chair with his driver -- and then sink the thing for a titanic 2.

He couldn't.

The dratted ball misbehaved, landing almost pin-high but in a tiny patch of rough between two small bunkers. When he was too delicate with his pitch, the defending champion might have chewed his wedge in half if given the chance.

In a stretch of four holes, from the ninth through the 12th, he had gone five over par. Then he missed about a seven-footer for eagle.

In just a few holes, Norman had experienced the horrors of Avenel. He was about to get a taste of joy. Fortunately, he did not chew up that wedge, for the next blow, from a wicked sidehill lie, bounced onto the green and into the cup.

He had gotten the bird he was willing to settle for back on the tee. Avenel taketh, and giveth back now and then.

The first-ever show was quite a sight. There was an outing-like atmosphere at the 13th hole, with the golfers being taken from the hilly teeing area to their second shots in carts.

For red-faced and puffing fans, a Red Cross station sits atop the hill.

What went right in this out-of-the-box test was Avenel holding its own against an array of stars who probably arrived too confident, too eager to shoot zero.

Still, there is a lot of room for thoughtful criticism -- and Barr has plenty.

"How long did it {the final round} take?" he said in the parking lot and answered: "5 1/2 hours. They've got to change some of the golf course. Nine through 14 are not good for the crowd and not good for the golfers.

"It takes too long to get through there. There were two groups back up on the sixth tee today. And the course is a little young, with lots of crazy bounces.

"We remember those things.

"Who knows? Maybe next year I might be playing so good I'll have to come here. But I'll be leaving it open."

Norman makes no apologies for preferring the Congressional track on which he won to Avenel. He also resented the media emphasizing that.

As the featured attraction, he also was victim of too few marshals. The area around him seemed chaotic at times, with people traipsing through the fairways at all the wrong times.

"Who's that guy over there looking for, his mother?" Norman joked when somebody in a red pith helmet strayed into his line of sight in the rough off the 18th fairway.

This was after another of his sideways shots, the one that smacked spectator Liz Hunter near the right thumb from 300 or so yards away.

Actually, that fellow in the pith helmet was a marshal. So in addition to more of them, the volunteers added to bring law and order to the civil sport must be better schooled in golf manners.

"Sorry," Norman quickly added. "It's been one of those days."

And one of those tournaments, for players and fans. Nobody's patience seems to be tested quite so often as those devoted to golf. Nobody seems quite so able to adapt to adversity.

Saturday, in the parking lot off the second fairway, traffic was halted for perhaps 15 minutes. Some far-sighted souls had a solution.

Others, fans and cars, steamed. The heady, steady in the area simply unlocked their trunks and hauled out a club. They then scrounged up ball-like mounds of dirt and proceeded to blast them to smithereens.

One can never get in too many practice swings.