BETHESDA, Md. – World rankings proved to be worth only so much in the opening round at the U.S. Open.
The top-ranked trio of No. 1 Luke Donald, No. 2 Lee Westwood and No. 3 Martin Kaymer went out as a group and all failed to break par Thursday at Congressional Country Club. They finished a total of 10 over, collecting 17 bogeys and a double between them, with only 9 birdies.
Donald and Westwood, both Englishmen, shot 74 and 75. Kaymer, a German, finished with a 74.
“I think all three of us struggled a bit,” Donald said. “There were no fireworks. We didn’t get on a run and sometimes you need one or two guys to get on a run to get everyone going. It just didn’t happen.
“It was,” he added, “kind of a solemn group, I guess.”
The problem certainly wasn’t the start. Going off the 10th tee, both Donald and Kaymer made birdies, and the Englishman hit another 4-iron flush into the 11th green for a second straight birdie.
“I was loving the start,” Donald said. But his red numbers were quickly wiped out by what he called an “untidy” stretch that began with a 3-putt bogey from 40 feet on No. 13, then extended to bogeys on three of the next four holes and a double at No. 18.
“It wasn’t a matter of just I drove it poorly. It was I didn’t hit enough fairways and when I hit fairways, I was short-siding myself,” Donald said. “When I had those 6- to 8-footers to save some pars, I wasn’t making them. It was a struggle today.”
Westwood’s problems proved even more frustrating because of his certainty that the long and brutal Congressional course – softened up by a morning rain – offered good scoring opportunities.
“I’m quite surprised nobody has gone out this morning and shot 66,” Westwood said.
Asked whether the Open setup, with its fast greens, narrow fairways and graduated rough, heaped additional pressure on the players, Westwood replied, “Any course is a mental grind if you’re not sharp. The U.S. Open is no different. …
“I didn’t hit enough fairways. I didn’t hit enough good irons. My short game was pretty sharp actually. I just made too many mistakes.”
Kaymer blamed his problems on an inconsistent driver. He hit eight of 14 fairways, one better than either of his playing partners, but said an inability to take advantage of the course off the tee cost him all the way around.
“My short game kept me alive,” he said.
So did a good attitude.
“A little strange for me playing with five English guys,” laughed Kaymer, whose caddie, Christian Donald, is Luke’s brother. “But we all get along very well.”