Tiger Takes Command Early at Open
Woods, playing in just under five hours and 15 minutes, emphatically pumped his fist as he rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the last ' his 67th stroke of the day ' to take the first-round lead in the 102nd U.S. Open.
Its always nice to play well in the first round, because then its easier to keep momentum going, rather than playing poorly, and somehow having to go find it on the range, put it together, and somehow go and compete, said Woods.
This is the third time Tiger has broken par in the opening round of a U.S. Open. He shot 2-under 68 in finishing tied for third in 1999, at Pinehurst. He then opened in 6-under 65 the following year in his record victory at Pebble Beach.
Woods leads Sergio Garcia by one shot. Garcia set the early mark, posting a 2-under 68. His day included a birdie at the fourth, a chip-in birdie at the fifth, and a 20-footer for birdie at the 499-yard, par-4 12th.
Im happy with 68, Garcia said. Maybe I could have asked for a couple of shots less. But I made some really nice key par putts, which maybe leveled out with the birdie putts I missed.
This is the 22-year-old Spaniards third U.S. Open appearance. He tied for 46th in 2000, and was one shot off the third-round lead at Southern Hills last year before shooting a Sunday 77 and finishing tied for 12th.
Im looking forward to being in a similar position or better on Sunday, and see how I handle it, he said.
If he is there on Sunday, he will likely have to deal with Tiger ' much the same as in 1999, when the two dueled for the PGA Championship crown, which Woods won.
Part of Sergios first-round success was playing holes 10-13 (which, in total, measure well over a mile) in 1-under par. Woods, who started on the back nine, posted the same score during that stretch.
For the first time in tournament history, the USGA has employed split tees over the first two rounds. Nearly 40 minutes after hitting his last practice shot, Woods finally teed off on 10 ' to where players have to be shuttled ' and parred the 492-yard hole, despite hitting what he said was a poor tee shot; he scored likewise on 11 and 12.
I dont think Ive ever played as difficult a start as that, Woods commented.
Tiger recorded his first birdie of the day at 13, making an 18-footer. That was one of several one-putt greens.
Woods made a 15-foot birdie at 14, but dropped a shot when a fan yelled something in the middle of his putting stroke at 16. He came back with an eight-foot par save at 17 and a 20-foot birdie at 18.
Tigers putting genius continued on the front side. He made another eight-footer for par at the first and a 10-foot birdie at 2.
Leading the event at 3-under, Woods flew a 7-iron too long at the sixth and couldnt get up and down for par.
At the seventh, he wanted to hit 3-wood off the tee, but when he took a practice swing, he heard a rumble in the head. Wednesday, he snapped his 3-wood while hitting it on the practice range. He twice took it to get fixed and thought the problem was alleviated.
There must be some loose epoxy, he said. I have a back-up, Ill put that in play.
Woods, who used his 3-wood only once in round 1, played an armsy driver off the tee - after having to stop once in mid-swing due to a camera clicking - and made a 12-footer for par at 7. Following another par at 8, he finished with the birdie at 9.
I think the only time Ive putted better (this year) was at Augusta, said Woods, who took 28 putts Thursday.
Woods won his first U.S. Open two years ago at Pebble Beach, setting a tournament record at 12-under-par in the process. He not only shattered the 72-hole scoring mark, he finished as the only player under par - 15 strokes clear of second place.
This golf course is more difficult than Pebble was playing ' its longer, for one (thing), he said. Its playing so difficult out there that you hit one poor shot and youre going to pay the price.
And Pebble, the rough wasnt quite as thick. If you hit a bad tee shot in the rough, you had a good shot at getting it to the green. Here, you dont really have a good shot getting it to the green.
Only six players broke par in round one. Jeff Maggert, K.J. Choi, Dudley Hart, and Billy Mayfair all had 1-under 69s.
Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington, Nick Faldo, Franklin Langham and Steve Lowery all matched par.
Mickelsons second shot of the day, a 3-iron from 217 yards, came to rest inches away from the cup at the 10th. He tapped in for birdie, and then curled in a 15-footer for birdie at the 11th.
The lefthander bogeyed the 12th ' which plays as the longest par-4 in Open history ' but came right back with a birdie at 13. Earlier in the week, Mickelson said he would love to play holes 10-13 in even par; he played them in 2-under Thursday.
You dont know when your birdies are going to come, you just hope you can get a few during the round, he said.
Mickelson missed the elevated green at the par-4 15th. With his ball entangled in the rough, he tried to pitch to the top tier, but instead watched helplessly as his Titleist came rolling back towards him. He carded a double-bogey, thus giving away all he had fought for over the courses most difficult stretch of holes.
Mickelson went on to shoot even par, and said he was glad to do so.
It was a round of 70 and Ill take it, he said. This is as hard a U.S. Open as Ive played, and thats given we played in perfect conditions.
Several pre-tournament favorites struggled in round one.
Davis Love III was leading the tournament after turning in 3-under 32, but came home in 4-over 39 for a 1-over total.
I hit fairways on the front and missed them on the back, its as simple as that, said the 1996 U.S. Open runner-up.
Two-time champion Ernie Els shot 3-over 73, as did Jim Furyk. David Toms was 1-under through 10 holes, but played the back nine in 5-over 40 to shoot 74. Vijay Singh had a 75; David Duval shot 78; and defending champion Retief Goosen recorded a 9-over 79.
Full-field scores from the 102nd U.S. Open
Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker
John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.
The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.
That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.
He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.
Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.