Notes Sabbatini Sets Pace Toms Solid

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PINEHURST, N.C. -- Rory Sabbatini had no reason to complain about the pace of play Thursday -- at least for the first nine holes.
 
As a part of the first threesome off the first tee, Sabbatini and his group breezed through the front and eventually completed their round in a tidy 4 hours and 45 minutes. Not bad for a U.S. Open.
 
'The pace out there wasn't bad,' he said after a 72.
 
That wasn't the case last week at the Booz Allen Classic, when Sabbatini drew the ire of television commentator Paul Azinger for putting out of turn on 17 to protest the slow play of playing partner Ben Crane. Sabbatini also stormed to the 18th tee before Crane finished.
 
In an attempt to put the incident behind him, Sabbatini issued a statement Monday apologizing for his conduct, although he still heard at least a few fans berate him for it.
 
'Unfortunately, there's still a few critics out there who made comments in the crowd, but they're obviously narrow-minded and haven't bothered to pay attention to what's going on,' he said. 'It's going to happen. Everybody thinks they have their opinion, and they're entitled to it.'
 
In the locker room, the reaction has been mostly positive, and a few players let Sabbatini know they appreciated him for highlighting what is a big problem on tour.
 
'There have been people saying that, but maybe I didn't handle it in the right way,' he said. 'It's something that the players' board and tour will look at and handle in an appropriate manner.'
 
FATHER TOMS:
David Toms got very little out of his game Thursday. Right now, he would take three more days just like it.
 
Considered by many to be one of the favorites at the U.S. Open, Toms didn't hurt his chances with an even-par 70 in the first round at Pinehurst. He missed only one fairway and hit 12 greens in regulation, a difficult task on the turtlebacked greens at No. 2.
 
'It was tough to keep the ball in play, and I did that, but I just didn't make any putts,' Toms said. 'I played really solid golf, and just didn't get a whole lot out of it.'
 
His round might have seemed a little worse than it was, since he played alongside Rocco Mediate, who shot 67.
 
But Toms, who won the Match Play Championship earlier this year for his 11th career victory, has few complaints. He sits fourth on the money list and was playing well coming into this week, and nothing he did Thursday changed that.
 
Maybe he can add an Open title to his 2001 PGA Championship.
 
'I had a good feeling about my game,' he said. 'You know, I can't control the other guys. For me, I feel good about where I am, and I think I can shoot a good score on this golf course. It's just putting myself in a position to do that, and I've got to make some putts to have any chance to win this golf tournament.'
 
Toms has more than golf on his mind. His wife, Sonya, is expecting their second child next week, and the couple has a C-section scheduled Monday. Of course, if the father needs to hang around for an extra day in a playoff, that can always be postponed.
 
'I don't know if I have the final say-so in that, but we're excited about it. It's a good time,' Toms said.
 
JONES IS BACK:
Nine years after his surprising U.S. Open victory at Oakland Hills, Steve Jones was back near the top of the leaderboard, finishing with an up-and-down round of 69.
 
He had only two pars among four birdies and three bogeys on the front, then closed with a more consistent inward nine for his best score in this event since 1997.
 
'That's kind of part of the way I've been playing,' Jones said. 'Jekyll and Hyde, on and off. I never know who's going to show up.'
 
So far in 2005, his best finish is a tie for 36th in the FBR Open, and he is 186th on the money list with just more than $89,000. Jones has made only five cuts in 13 starts this year, and his struggles might be because he's a bit rusty.
 
He missed most of the previous two seasons after elbow surgery, but for one day at least, he had his game back.
 
'First, I was concerned if I was ever going to play again,' Jones said. 'Once it felt like it was getting better, I wasn't sure how long it would last, how much pressure or how much pounding can it take hitting balls. And once I started doing that in January, February, March, then I kind of felt like, 'I'm OK.''
 
SOLID COOK:
John Cook is in the U.S. Open for the first time since 2002. Another round like the one Thursday should keep him around for the weekend.
 
Injuries kept him sidelined almost all of 2003, and he received a major medical extension for last season. But he made the cut in only nine of 19 starts and finished outside the top 125 for the only the third time in his 25-year career.
 
So he took advantage of his one-time exemption as one of the top 50 on the PGA Tour's career money list for 2005. He hasn't quite found his game yet, with a tie for 22nd his best result, yet was very solid in the first round at Pinehurst for a 71.
 
'I haven't played poorly, I just haven't played good enough to do any good,' Cook said. 'I haven't shot many high rounds. I haven't shot many low rounds, and 70 and 71 doesn't cut it out here anymore.'
 
He has been coming to Pinehurst since his college days at Ohio State, and also played in the old Hall of Fame Classic in the early 1980s. In 1999, when the Open came to No. 2 for the first time, he made the cut and tied for 60th.
 
'I loved it from the time I saw it,' Cook said. 'I grew up loving classic courses. It's changed a lot since I first saw it. It's an extreme test, there's no doubt.'
 
DIVOTS:
Chris DiMarco, paired with Tiger Woods and Luke Donald, recovered from an inconsistent first nine after starting on No. 10 with three consecutive birdies on the front. A 2-under 33 closed out a 71 in the first round. ... Fred Couples didn't make his first par until his eighth hole. He started with consecutive bogeys, then had three birdies in a row before making another pair of bogeys. ... Last year, Jay Haas led following the first round at Shinnecock Hills. He likely won't make the cut at Pinehurst after an 82, which included no birdies and a 43 on the back nine.
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - 105th U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

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