Conditions Easy Course Still Tough

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- You could see your breath as you walked onto the Black Course Thursday morning. Chilly weather (temperatures in the mid-50s) and damp conditions awaited the players as they set out to tackle their 7,214-yard opponent. But even slight overnight showers and benign weather didnt ease the task.
 
Dudley Hart officially opened the 102nd U.S. Open with his tee shot on the 492-yard, par-4 10th. Sixty-eight swings later he was in the clubhouse.
 
Hart was one of only four men playing in the morning to shoot under par, but it wasnt quite good enough for the mid-day lead; that honor belonged to Sergio Garcia.
 
Buoyed by an enthusiastic following, Garcia made only one bogey in round one, en route to 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 at Pebble Beach 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.
 
Part of Sergios first-round success was playing holes 10-13 (which, in total, measure well over a mile) in 1-under par. Phil Mickelson said earlier in the week that he would be happy to play the same stretch in even par. Thursday, he did it in 2-under.
 
For the first time in tournament history, the USGA has employed split tees over the first two rounds. Mickelson teed off on the back nine first Thursday. His 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 an 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 the par-5 13th.
 
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.
 
Harts round was even more erratic than that produced by Mickelson. The sometimes volatile veteran had his patience tested when he hit his tee shot on the par-4 fifth ' his 14th hole of the day ' into the lip of a fairway bunker. He was barely able to advance his second shot out of the hazard, and took a triple-bogey-7.
 
But instead of blowing a fuse, the Mini Volcano responded with a 25-foot birdie at the seventh, an 18-foot birdie at the eighth and a 35-foot bomb at the ninth ' his last.
 
My roller-coaster month continues, he said. I have a bunch of good holes and then something crazy happens.
 
Jeff Maggert and K.J. Choi matched Hart's 69.
 
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.
 
Defending champion Retief Goosen is among the afternoon participants, as is tournament favorite Tiger Woods, who teed off at 1:35 PM ET.
 
Full-field scores from the 102nd U.S. Open