Day one goes almost to script at US Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2005 US Open | Round One | 17 Jun 2005
Day one of the 105th US Open went almost according to script with the almost obligatory bolters getting out in front and the more fancied candidates positioned just off the pace.
On a warm and sunny day in North Carolina, the world’s leading players took to the fairways of Pinehurst #2 perhaps still a little unsure as to just how she would play. They had seen during practice rounds that the course had the potential to ruin scores and reputations but thanks to regular syringing and that is still the early stages of the week, the course played as a US Open should do in that it succumbed to quality play while penalising, sometimes severely, anything less than that.
At the end of the day’s play, 46-year-old Olin Browne, who just a week ago shot 59 in qualifying for the event and who is playing on non-exempt status on the USPGA Tour in 2005, was around in three under 67 to share the first round lead with Rocco Mediate.
Browne is playing his 8th US Open having made five of the seven cuts in previous attempts. He finished 5th at Congressional in 1997 but this is a start that perhaps even he could not have imagined.
Mediate, a five time winner on the USPGA Tour, has come off injury, and a restricted tournament schedule as a result, but openly declared his love of US Open courses and their set up. “There is no greater test than the US Open for telling you where you are at with your game,” he said later. His has not been a stellar US Open career either but he did manage to finish 4th to Goosen in 2001 at Southern Hills.
Given the lack of recent form of both Browne and Mediate, their rounds were a surprise but they did have the advantage of early tee times on day one and they will get the chance to consolidate, or otherwise, that start in the slightly more difficult afternoon conditions that are likely to prevail tomorrow.
If the rounds of the leaders were a surprise, those produced by the immediate chasing pack were not. Retief Goosen further displayed the suitability of both his game and demeanour for US Open golf with his opening 68 and he looms now as someone well suited to handle the rollercoaster ride that awaits the whole field, more especially those in contention, over the next three days.
Those at two under with Goosen were, a somewhat resurgent Lee Westwood, and Brandt Jobe, whose effort may well have been considered the most impressive given that his was an afternoon round. 39-year-old Jobe, who was a multiple winner in Japan before returning to the US in 1999, reached 4 under at one stage courtesy of a hot start when he birdied three of the first four holes. He was still at four under and one ahead with three holes to play although bogeys at the 16th and 17th saw him slip back but still record a fine opening round.
At one under is 1996 US Open champion Steve Jones, who has returned to tournament golf this year but with little success. He reached three under himself at one stage before two late bogeys. Luke Donald, who many expect to be winning majors sooner rather than later, was also in the group at one under. He struggled towards the end of his front nine with consecutive bogeys at the 16th and 17th but when he turned he picked up three birdies on the way in for his 69. Playing with the perhaps added distraction of Woods he did well in just his second US Open. His game is well suited to the task he will face over the weekend but time will tell if he is yet ready for such.
K.J. Choi putted beautifully for his 69 and Phil Mickelson was always around or just under par before a last hole birdie saw him complete a rock solid start.
Of those at even par, Tiger Woods found a way to get it around in 70 despite some less than acceptable driving and he will need to sharpen up on this aspect of his game if he is, as most imagine he will be, to be in contention on Sunday. "I need to be more in the fairway. I kept spinning the ball today, he said later. “I kept hitting those up shooters. I know what I’m doing, so I need to fix it.”
Adam Scott is also at even par and perhaps more than anyone he looked to have played the best golf from tee to green on day one. Not that the trophy will be given to the player that does that on Sunday however, but he is clearly pleased with the manner in which he is hitting the ball. He missed several very good chances from around ten to fifteen feet and with an early draw tomorrow he has a chance to improve his position if he can convert some of the chances he seems likely to create.
He twice reached two under par before late bogeys but he is in good position. “I thought I played well today,” he said later. This was his best round in a US Open although given his record to date that is not saying a lot. It was, however, an impressive start.
Also at even par is Vijay Singh, who despite some wayward driving and putting, is still right there. He seemed to be favouring a knee injury late in the day but if that is not too much of an issue he does have an early time tomorrow to further stake his claim to his first US Open title.
Also at even par is David Toms who hit all but one fairway which was quite an achievement on day one. He is clearly playing well and might yet be a threat to the slightly more fancied candidates.
Ernie Els was not convincing but at just 1 over he is well placed. He is in 17th place but importantly only four from the lead and realistically only three from someone who could be considered a potential winner.
All five of the world’s leading players are all within striking distance early in the tournament, already highlighting the likely capacity of Pinehurst #2 to sort the men from the boys.
Of the other Australasians Lonard did well with his opening 71. He hit only 57% of fairways but many others did the same and worse. He battled his way back to par with a nice 12 foot birdie at the 17th but then bogeyed the last from just short of the green.
Mark Hensby, in his very first US Open, was around in 71 adding to his other fine “major” debut at Augusta this year. He wasn’t exactly singing the praises of the course set up later, preferring to down play the importance of the occasion. That is the way Hensby operates however and it is this no fuss, say it as he sees it, attitude that has stood in him in such good stead in the last eighteen months or so.
Michael Campbell did a great job late in the day especially considering his tough time while playing in American in recent years. He finished with 71 further emphasising the return to form he has shown in recent weeks in European Tour events.
Several other Australians are not too far out of things with opening rounds of 72 including Nick O’Hern, who was brilliant from tee to green finishing first in fairways hit and 5th in greens in regulation. He did not fare quite so well on the greens once he got there but he has made a good start. Joining him at two under are Steve Allan, who is playing at Pinehurst for the second time having made the cut in 1999, Richard Green, Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby who struggled on the greens but continued on with the general return to form which he displayed last week.
The cut already looks like being as high as eight over and so there exists the potential for many of the Australasians to be around for the weekend with the prospect of several being in contention right through until the last stages of this great event.