Theres more than one Justin Hicks.
While Woods was going through an up-and-down opening round at the U.S. Open on Thursday, the relatively unknown Hicks was grabbing the lead.
Nobody was happier to see Hicks, the Nationwide Tour player, succeed than another Justin Hicks'one who just happens to be a club pro in the area and played the Buick Open at Torrey Pines earlier this year.
Hicks, the club pro, walked the gallery with the U.S. Open leaders wife, and they all celebrated when Hicks, the tour pro, finished with a score of 3-under 68, good for the clubhouse lead with about half the field still on the course.
A lot of weird stuff going on out there today, Hicks said.
It was very strange, indeed, to watch Woods hook his opening tee shot into the deep kikuya rough en route to a double-bogey that put him in catch-up mode from the start. He rallied with three birdies through the rest of the front nine to get under par, but gave that back with a double-bogey on No. 14.
He finished at 1-over 72, four shots behind but knowing it couldve been much worse. Woods, coming off knee surgery and playing his first competitive round since Sunday at the Masters, made three long putts as part of his scrambling back nine to stay in contention.
Getting into the flow of the first round, Woods said when asked what his biggest challenge was in the comeback. It helps when you hit six shots on the first hole.
Woods was part of the days glamour threesome, along with Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, the top three players in the world.
Mickelson, playing without a driver in his bag, overcame a balky putter early to finish at even par. Scott, playing with a broken right pinkie, finished 2 over.
Mickelson was 3 over at one point, looking on the verge of a meltdown after scraping a 5-wood through the gnarled rough on No. 12 and watching it go a grand total of about 15 feet.
He saved bogey there, though, then got on a roll with two straight birdies and found himself in the running on a course he played often as a kid. Mickelson is a native of San Diego.
We were all in our own little area, Mickelson said of the threesome. When youre tackling a U.S. Open golf course, its so tough that youre trying to just be in your own world and play it strategically the best you can, hit the best shots.
The USGA made a big deal about providing better scoring opportunities this year than in the past'the Open has been won with a score of par or higher for the last three years'but the results showed only a faint glimpse of a kinder, gentler set-up.
At 69, Rocco Mediate, Stuart Appleby and Eric Axley were the only other players to break 70 with about half the 156 players done. In the clubhouse at 1-under 70 were Robert Karlsson, Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler.
A few players got as low as 4-under but quickly saw how the course could give, then take away. Steve Stricker got there by snaking in a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 16 (he started on the back), but played the last nine in 6-over 41 to finish at 73.
Patrick Sheehan was alone in the lead briefly at 4-under before he got mixed up in the kikuya. Standing ankle-high in the rough near the 15th green, he tried to get a wedge on the ball but only popped it up and advanced it about a foot. His next shot came up short of the green, too, and he made triple-bogey. He finished at even-par 71.
Then there was Hicks, who opened his round on the back and shot 33 after nine holes during which he did not make a single par. Among the highlights were his chip-in on No. 11 for a birdie.
It was kind of nice to hear a little roar when that happened, he said.
Among those roaring was the other Hicks, who played here in January, when Torrey Pines looked much different, and tamer, than it does this week. That, in turn, caused the Nationwide Tour to call their Hicks and tell him theyd pulled him out of their event in Panama City, figuring he was all set for the week in San Diego.
I told them, well, Id really like to play in Panama City if I could, because I wasnt playing in the Buick, Hicks said.
Some confusion ensued, though it was short-lived.
And only one Hicks will be remembered for holding the U.S. Open lead, even if it turns out to be for just a few short hours.
Who am I? he said. Well, I think Im just another one of the guys out there playing the Nationwide Tour, trying to earn his PGA Tour card. Theres a lot of great young players in America, and were all out there trying to earn our way up.
Surely, the other Justin Hicks would second that.