Happy Return for Monty Not Tiger

By Associated PressJune 15, 2006, 4:00 pm
U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- The U.S. Open gave Tiger Woods a rude welcome back Thursday.
For Colin Montgomerie, it was a surprisingly happy return.
Playing for the first time since his father died, Woods ended a nine-week layoff with bogeys on his first three holes that sent him to his highest start ever in the U.S. Open. He had to play the final six holes 1 under par to escape with a 6-over 76, leaving him seven shots behind Montgomerie in the toughest first round of this major in 20 years.
Woods looked somber at times, although that was more likely a product of Winged Foot that memories of his father.
Scorecard: Tiger already finished with Rd. 2
Everyone was looking for me to be more emotional, he said. But Im trying to put the ball in the hole and win the championship.
Colin Montgomerie
Colin Montgomerie is in position to contend for an elusive first major.
No one did that better than Monty. A perennial contender at the U.S. Open in his prime, Montgomerie overcame a rugged start by relying on his strength'fairways and greens'and his 1-under 69 was the only round under par.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson got off to a solid start in his bid for a third straight major, making a pair of 30-foot birdie putts and a bunch of short ones for par that proved equally important. He wound up at even-par 70, along with Jim Furyk, David Howell, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Steve Stricker.
Howell managed to make six birdies and was 4 under par with four holes to play. But he started missing fairways, which inevitably left him testy putts for par, and dropped four shots down the stretch, three-putting for double bogey on the 18th.
Once I calm down a bit, its still level par and its a good round of golf, Howell said. But right now Im frustrated, and Im fed up.
Mickelson didnt even bother trying to explain the degree of difficulty at Winged Foot, where 22 players shot in the 80s. The average score was pushing 80, the highest in the first round of a U.S. Open since Shinnecock Hills in 1986.
Youve had to go play it to grasp it, Lefty said. Its the toughest test we have all year.
It surely was a test of patience, including for Montgomerie.
He was 2 over after his first three holes, then holed a 10-foot par putt on the par-5 fifth that turned his fortunes. He started finding the short grass and kept his ball below the hole, and finished atop the leaderboard in the U.S. Open for the first time since 1997 at Congressional. Still, the 42-year-old Scot kept it in perspective.
My God, weve only walked seven miles, Montgomerie said. Theres a long way to go.
It felt like a marathon, players plodding along as they looked for relief from a course that demanded accuracy off the tee, precision to the greens and no time to breathe easy until the ball was in the hole.
Vijay Singh, coming off his first victory of the season last week at Westchester, had a steady round of 71 to join former Masters champion Mike Weir, John Cook and Fred Funk, who celebrated his 50th birthday on Wednesday.
Mickelson was wild at the start of his round in the morning, under cool, overcast skies. He missed six consecutive greens, but left himself in decent shape to save par and did that five straight times. Then came a 30-foot birdie on his ninth hole, No. 18, which showed how much his preparation paid off.
He started the ball well to the right, and watched the severe slope guide it back toward the hole until it disappeared, setting off a raucous cheer from the New York fans who again made the Californian feel at home.
I had hit that putt a bunch in practice, and the first couple times I stroked it, I missed it 2 feet left or low and 3 or 4 feet short, Mickelson said. I ended up playing about 8 or 10 feet of break and it swung right in there.
That was one of the few thrills on this day at Winged Foot.
Ernie Els saved a pedestrian round of 4-over by holing out from the ninth fairway for eagle and a 74. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen didnt fare as well, failing to make a single birdie in his round of 77.
It was a stern test, but there were few complaints that it was unfair.
Furyk was so close to the lip of a bunker on No. 3 that he used his putter to get out to the middle of the sand, and he was all too glad to make bogey. The 03 U.S. Open champion is playing well this year and has been mentioned as one of the favorites.
It looks good, suits my eye, he said of Winged Foot. But thats a small part of the battle. The other part is hitting the shots and executing, which is difficult to do out here.
Par had not been so hard to beat in the first round since 86 at Shinnecock. No one did it then.
You just try to play for par here, whether its Thursday or Sunday, Mickelson said. Even is a good score.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods had trouble with the greens at the start of his first round.
Woods gladly would have settled for anything near that.
He last was seen inside the ropes on Sunday at the Masters, where a balky putter kept him from making a charge, and he had to settle for a tie for third. More than two months later, not much changed.
Woods hit only three fairways but was hurt more by missing par putts of 8 feet, 7 feet and 6 feet on his opening holes. He said the greens were slower than he expected for a U.S. Open and he failed to adjust.
The first three holes ... I cost myself three shots, Woods said. Just got off to a bad start. With the wind blowing as hard as it was, it was going to be hard to make up shots. And I didnt. I lost ground.
Woods hit one tee shot so far to the right at No. 9 that he chose to play a sweeping hook with a 9-iron from 195 yards around the trees, over a corporate tent and into the grandstand to the right of the greens, which allowed him a free drop. Everything worked perfectly until he flew his chip over the green, flubbed the next one and had to make a 6-footer to save bogey.
The biggest damage came at the 640-yard 12th, when his approach went into a bunker and he flew that over the green, making double bogey. But he was solid the rest of the way, and while history is hardly on his side, he wasnt ruling himself out quite yet.
Woods has won only one of his 10 majors when he shoots over par in the first round, opening with a 74 at the Masters last year.
Ive just got to plod along; shoot under par the next two days, Ill be right there, he said.
Considering there was only one round under par Thursday, that might be a tall order. Woods was told that only Ben Hogan in 1951 at Oakland Hills and Jack Fleck in 1955 at Olympic Club had started with a 76 and gone on to win the Open. That brought a rare smile.
Its been done before, hasnt it? he said.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

    Getty Images

    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

    Masters victory

    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

    Man of the people

    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

    Departure from TaylorMade

    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

    Victory at Valderrama

    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm