Old Man Irwin Leads Young Mans Open

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TULSA, OKLA. - The young guys all came to the U.S. Open brandishing their various tour cards ' U.S., European, Japanese, etc. Hale Irwin came brandishing something he thinks is just as important ' his AARP card.

Irwin shot a 3-under-par 67 in the first round at Southern Hills before play was suspended late Thursday. He's tied with the European Tours Retief Goosen, who was 3-under through just seven holes when the downpours began.
 
Irwin, playing his round in the morning, finished with a magnificent 2-iron to the 18th green that rolled to inside of three feet. The 56-year-old sank the birdie putt, then gave a little warning to his younger rivals. Watch out for the old folks, sonny.

Its not how far you hit the ball, but how do you control what you have and manage what you have? Irwin said.
 
And Im not looking at the statistics and saying, Yes, Im leading in driving. Its more important to me to ask, What did you shoot? And by doing that, I think it keeps things in perspective. Rather than getting hung up on all the hype and glitter, lets just get out there and play golf.
 
Defending champion Tiger Woods suffered a double bogey on No. 9 to drop his score to 3-over-par on the difficult Southern Hills course. He faces a six-footer for par on the 10th when play resumes at 7 a.m. Central time. Japans Toshimitsu Izawa is one off the pace at 2-under after four holes, standing alone in third place.
 
Loren Roberts, a youngster in comparison at almost 46, played beside Irwin and carded a 1-under 69. Irwin is great, he said, because he never puts himself in spots that he cant get out of.
 
Hes a control player, and this course lends itself to someone who keeps the ball in control, said Roberts. He putted extremely well today. I would say thats what youve got to do. But he had some great iron shots.
 
Irwin, after great years on the Senior Tour in 1997, 98 and 99, has tailed off somewhat the last couple of years. But he always has been an effective player in the Open, making the cut and finishing in a tie for 27th last year. He made the field this year by virtue of his U.S. Senior Open win last year.
 
He began by making bogey on the first two holes. But he birdied No. 3 with a 20-foot putt after hitting the approach shot out of the first cut of the rough. He then got back to even par after hitting a punch 7-iron to within two feet, and he was off and running.
 
Age, said Irwin, doesnt mean a whole lot in golf. I think we try to make it something thats bigger than we will let it be, he said. And I guess what Im saying is, if you keep your thoughts in a positive manner, if you dont accept the words, I cant do it, then you certainly can extend your career.
 
Just because you turn 40 or 45 or 50, thats a number. If youve taken care of yourself, you still have your skills, your nerves havent gone, you still can do this ' if you work at it. But it does not come without some sacrifice. It does not come without some effort. Its just not an automatic, like it might have been when youre 20 years old.
 
Roberts said the conditions Thursday definitely favored players who can control the flight of the ball.
 
Obviously, youve got to put the ball in the fairway here, he said. I think this is a golf course that is fair for everybody in the field. You can be a shorter control player or a longer player, and still be able to play this course.
 
The worlds No. 2 player, Phil Mickelson, was one of those who finished in the morning. He shot even-par 70 and said he did nothing that stood out.
 
Theres nothing in particular that I did exceptionally today, he said. Ive played well and Ive been playing well. I kept the ball in play and havent made too many mistakes. Ive been able to feel very comfortable on the greens. Ive been putting well.
 
Second-round play will not finish for everyone until Saturday morning. The cut will be made and then the third round will resume. Good weather is forecasted Friday and for the remainder of the week, with the championship back on schedule Saturday afternoon.
 
Full-field scores from the 101st U.S. Open