Oakmont Putting Up a Fight

By Associated PressJune 14, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- Oakmont was as easy as it gets. The U.S. Open was as tough as ever.
 
Even with a half-inch of rain on the eve of the championship and several hole locations that showed a compassionate side of the USGA, Nick Dougherty and Angel Cabrera were the only players who managed to break par Thursday in an opening round that left players wondering if the worst was ahead of them.
 
Dougherty, a 25-year-old from England, played in the fourth group of the still morning and quickly raised hopes of ending a European drought in the majors that stretches back to 1999. He took only 11 putts on the back nine in his round of 2-under 68, a score not many thought possible earlier in the week.
 
'I think the course is -- I hate saying it -- easy,' Dougherty said, sounding like that might come back to haunt him. 'Goodness, I shouldn't have said that. No, absolutely not. The course is barbaric.'
 
Cabrera was one of only two players who reached 3 under, and lost a share of the lead with a bogey on the 313-yard 17th.
 
Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal shot even-par 70, while the large group at 71 included Tiger Woods, defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh.
 
Woods holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole that put him 1 under, his first time in red numbers at this major since the second round at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005. He gave it back two holes later and never caught up to par.
 
'It's as easy as it's going to play, and it's still pretty hard,' Woods said. 'Imagine if it didn't rain last night.'
 
With greens that Olazabal described as rock-hard only a day ago, Oakmont was softened by the Wednesday night thunderstorms and cloud cover through the better part of the morning. The greens were still fast, but players had to guard against too much spin with a wedge in their hands, and some longer irons didn't roll too far away.
 
Phil Mickelson didn't make a birdie in his round of 74. He didn't break his wrist, either.
 
It was his highest opening round at the U.S. Open in 10 years, and all things considered, it wasn't too bad. Mickelson, dealing with inflammation in his left wrist that requires him to wear a brace, played 18 holes for the first time since he won The Players Championship. He didn't have many looks at birdie, but he played the final eight holes without a bogey.
 
'We've got a long ways to go,' he said. 'I just need one good round tomorrow to get me in it for the weekend. I fought the last eight holes to keep me in it, and if I do well tomorrow, that's all I care about.'
 
There wasn't anything too crazy at Oakmont, other than Tom Byrum hitting through the ninth green and into one of the holes on the putting green. He got a free drop and escaped with par.
 
There weren't too many spectacular crashes, just high scores. Seventeen players failed to break 80, while Sergio Garcia parred his last three holes to shoot 79. Masters champion Zach Johnson shot 76 and wasn't sure what to think about it.
 
'It's hard to figure out what par is,' Johnson said. 'I didn't make any big numbers. But I didn't make any birdies.'
 
He was far from alone. In all, 28 players failed to make a single birdie.
 
Oakmont could not have been more gentle when Ken Duke opened the 107th championship by pulling his tee shot to the left and still managing to make a birdie. The greens were receptive from the downpour Wednesday night and morning dew. The overcast skies made the course at least feel vulnerable.
 
Some guys even entertained the idea of attacking.
 
David Toms was 3 under with six holes left in his opening round when he found one too many bunkers, hit one too many shots into the rough. Before he knew it, he had five more bogeys on his card for a 72.
 
'I was playing perfect golf,' Toms said. 'I was hitting all the fairways, I was hitting smart shots into the green. Then all of a sudden, I wasn't playing great. And I paid the price. You can make bogey after bogey after bogey.'
 
It was a score he gladly would have taken earlier in the week. But a lot of players felt that way.
 
Ernie Els, a playoff winner when the U.S. Open last came here in 1994, was 1 under par as he headed for the turn, then the birdies dried up and the bogeys kept flowing.
 
'Monday or Tuesday, I would have taken a 73 and been happy,' Els said. 'I can shoot something under par. I know I can.'
 
No one was talking that way when they arrived to find firm fairways and frightening greens, the trademark at Oakmont. When the defending champion played a practice round a week ago, he figured 10-over 290 would be enough to win by five shots.
 
'Right now, 10 over is not going to win if it stays like this,' Ogilvy said. 'There are birdies out there.'
 
Woods had few complaints with his start, especially the way he finished. He now has gone five straight rounds in the majors without breaking par, but he was fortunate to be only 1 over. Woods had to make an 8-foot par putt on the 16th, made a nifty pitch for birdie on the short 17th, then gouged a chip out of the deep rough around the 18th green to 3 feet for another par save.
 
'I could have lost three shots there,' he said.
 
That was important because of what Oakmont offers, which is not much. Woods spoke of golf courses and major championships where a player can pick up an easy birdie. But not at Oakmont.
 
'On this golf course, there are none,' he said.
 
What it left was a bunched leaderboard, only two players in red numbers, starting with Dougherty.
 
Europe might own the Ryder Cup, but it has not produced a major champion since Paul Lawrie in the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie. The last British player to win the U.S. Open was Tony Jacklin in 1970 at Hazeltine.
 
'If I can just cling on now for the next 54 holes, I'll do it,' Dougherty said with a smile.
 
Indeed, there is a long way to go, and Oakmont doesn't figure to get any easier.
 
'It wasn't easy by any means,' Singh said. 'You have to still hit the fairways and you have to hit the greens. I think the pin placements ... the tough ones are still out there. So we are in for a long week.'
 
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.