Notes Youth on center stage at Oakland Hills

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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' This was the time for American players on the bubble for making the Ryder Cup team to make a statement. It wasnt what Hunter Mahan had in mind.
 
Mahan is 10th in the standings ' only the top eight qualify after the PGA Championship ' and he got off to a rugged start with a double bogey. It didnt get much better. He had a triple bogey on the fourth hole and shot 42 on the front nine. His round ended with one last bogey for an 81, the highest score of his career.
 
Woody Austin, who is at No. 9, went out in 40 and only three tough pars at the end allowed him to shoot 79.
 
D.J. Trahan (No. 11) opened with a 72, while Zach Johnson (No. 13) had a 76. The most impressive performance came from Sean OHair, who won in Tampa earlier this year and is No. 14 in the standings.
 
OHair was atop the leaderboard most of the morning and finished with a 1-under 69.
 
Its in the back of my mind, OHair said. I really want to play on the team, but thinking about it would get in my way. It almost would make me try too hard to get on the team. So if I just focus on what gets me to play well, it will me get on the team. And if I do get on the team, it will help me play well in the Ryder Cup.
 
Rocco Mediate, who was at No. 12 and has captain Paul Azingers attention as a possible pick, opened with a 73.
 
Azinger will select four players as captains picks.
 
YOUTH ON STAGE
 
Among the more interesting groups for the first two rounds of the PGA Championship were Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas, three young players with increasing appeal.
 
It was a big gallery for a Thursday tee time, Kim said.
 
Garcia and Kims popularity comes more from their performance, Villegas more through marketing.
 
Garcia is a 28-year-old Spaniard who won The Players Championship this year and is considered by some as the best to have never won a major. He was solid in the first round, with two birdies against one bogey for a 69. Kim has the swagger of L.A., where he grew up, and the 23-year-old came of age this year with victories at the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National. He shot 70.
 
Villegas is a 26-year-old from Colombia, who still hasnt won on the PGA TOUR. But he is famous for his Spider-Man routine when reading putts, model looks and natty clothing. He stayed with his more accomplished peers for much of the round until playing the final five holes in 5 over for a 74.
 
It was great, Garcia said. Anthony is a great guy. Obviously, Im good friends with Camilo. I think this is the first tournament round I played with Anthony, and its very impressive.
 
A TOUGH TEST
 
Paul Goydos found Oakland Hills to be as tough as any test in golf. But his exam wasnt over after he made par on his final hole for a 74. Two officials escorted him to the locker room for a drug test.
 
Drug testing on the PGA and European tours began in July, although this was the first time at a major championship.
 
Moments later, Anthony Kim was escorted to the clubhouse for his drug test after a 70.
 
I was ready. It took 10 minutes, Goydos said.
 
Goydos is among those who accepts drug testing as a way of the sporting world, although he was intrigued by the philosophy.
 
In this case, youre guilty until proven innocent, he said. And now I have 10 days to prove Im innocent.
 
He was referring to the time it takes to get results, although it might be a little longer. Charles Howell III was among the first to be tested at the AT&T National last month at Congressional, and he received an e-mail 20 days later from the PGA TOUR saying he passed.
 
CHANGE IN PLANS
 
Having parted ways with his caddie, Steve Strickers plan for the summer was to use veteran looper Jimmy Johnson for a couple of tournaments, then use wife Nicki at the PGA Championship. A good player, she caddied for him early in his career before having children.
 
But then Stricker wound up in the hunt for the Ryder Cup, and everything changed. Johnson is still on the bag.
 
She pulled herself out, Stricker said of his wife. Ive been on that Ryder Cup bubble, and she thought the last thing we needed was for her to come here on the bag and be a story and take away from all that. She did it. She said this was not a good time for it.
 
Stricker needed a good round, and he got one with a 71. He is No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, the last spot for an automatic berth, and his hopes start with making the cut.
 
RUDE AWAKENING
 
Robert Allenby thought it was strange to see glass around the back of his courtesy car on his way to the PGA Championship on Thursday. Seconds later, he realized someone had broken into his car.
 
I walked out and said, Whats all that glass? Allenby said after opening with a 76. Then I saw a half-dozen cars just like it.
 
Allenby said nothing was missing from his car, but that wasnt the case for what he estimated to be 10 other courtesy cars that were parked at the Southfield Marriott about 5 miles from Oakland Hills.
 
Other victims included K.J. Choi, who had his 5-wood in the back. That was left alone, but the navigation system was torn out.
 
My navigation system was still there, Allenby said. But the others, they took the center console out of every car. I dont know why they didnt take mine. Maybe I had it on the wrong channel.
 
QUICK TRIP
 
Nathan Green had planned to stay home in Dallas this week until he learned that two players had withdrawn from the PGA Championship since Monday, and he was the first alternate.
 
Green arrived in the Detroit area Wednesday night, and had to be at Oakland Hills in time for the 7:30 a.m. start. He waited through the morning batch of tee times, had breakfast, hit balls, then waited some more.
 
Alas, no one else withdrew, and it was time for the Aussie to go back home to Dallas without ever seeing the course.
 
I thought it was a bit of a long shot, he said. But I had to be here just in case.
 
Green said he once spent all week as an alternate at the Australian Open, but never at a major. He didnt play in the 1996 U.S. Open here, and he didnt go through U.S. qualifying for the British Open at Oakland Hills last year.
 
He didnt seem the least bit bothered by such a quick trip.
 
I wasnt doing anything this week, anyway, he said.
 
SURPRISES
 
Along with an eclectic group of players under par, there were a few surprises in the first round.
 
Jay Haas, the 54-year-old who got into the field as the Senior PGA champion, made eagle on the second hole and shot a 73. The last time Haas played as the senior champion, he made the cut at Medinah in 2006.
 
And of the 20 club pros in the field, Frank Esposito Jr. led the way with a 71. Esposito is the head pro at Brooklake in New Jersey.
 
DIVOTS
 
Sean OHair was being interviewed when former Masters champion Zach Johnson walked by and posed as a reporter. Can you tell me about your shot on 18 and what you did there on your approach shot? What happened? Did you miss it left or right, please? OHair smiled and replied, You tell me how you won the Masters and Ill answer the question. Among those at Oakland Hills was Morgan Pressel, the youngest LPGA major champion in history. She was visiting family, had dinner planned with Davis Love III and wanted to walk a few holes with Adam Scott. Temperatures topped 100 degrees in the first round last year at Southern Hills. As the afternoon groups were teeing off Thursday, it was 75 degrees.
 
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