The course with a reputation second to none for difficulty starts off with a hole that sets the tone perfectly for a U.S. Open.
No. 1, a 460-yard par-4, was No. 1 Thursday in scoring and putting. The field averaged 4.69 for the day on it, including 2.10 putts. There were two birdies'Stuart Appleby and Phillip Archer'69 pars, 63 bogeys, 19 double-bogeys and three 7s.
The holes name is Genesis.
That is a tough hole. That is a tough start, said Steve Stricker, whose even-par 70 started when he hit his tee shot to the adjoining fairway on No. 9 and was able to scramble to a bogey. Five isnt a bad score sometimes there, either.
The fairway is only about 25 yards wide, but an accurate drive doesnt guarantee a good score. The green is famous for its severe pitch from back to front and two pronounced undulations that run vertically.
In its description of the hole, the U.S. Golf Association states that no golf course used in any U.S. Open in recent decades has a scarier putting green than Winged Foots 1st hole. ... Long is almost a guaranteed bogey.
Jack Nicklaus helped No. 1 to its frightening status in his first round of the 1974 Open, which was won by Hale Irwin at 7-over and called The Massacre at Winged Foot. Nicklaus hit his second shot long, 30 feet above the hole. His second putt was from off the front of the green.
Steve Melnyk was in the group behind Nicklaus that day. When I saw that, I said Well, I guess were in for a long day ... a long week.
A lot of golfers probably had the same thought Thursday.
Davis Love III was almost halfway to Irwins winning total after two holes. He bogeyed No. 1 and then made a double-bogey 6 at the 453-yard 2nd.
This is really a simple tournament. Drive it in the fairway and youre OK, said Love, who won the 1997 PGA Championship on this course.
Stricker said he watched Toms start his round with two double-bogeys.
I said, Here I go down the same avenue as he was, Stricker said after opening with two bogeys and a double-bogey. It can happen with such a difficult hole to start.
The green looks treacherous even to those not holding a putter. The familiar refrain from the gallery is Here it comes when a ball starts to take the slope and heads at a quick pace to the front of the green and sometimes beyond. That makes any shot from one of the four deep bunkers surrounding the green that much harder.
Players and caddies talk about possible lines for putts and their hands are moving in waves trying to figure out what will happen as the ball crosses one of the undulations and heads for the hole on one of the few flat areas.
The first four holes are very difficult, the most difficult four-hole stretch on the course, said Colin Montgomerie, who opened his 1-under 69 with a bogey on No. 1. But that first pin today, my word, that was on the edge.
It wasnt just the worlds top players who struggled at the start.
Tadd Fujikawa teed off Thursday morning as the youngest starter in U.S. Open history at 15 years, 6 months and 7 days. He was welcomed to Winged Foot with a four-putt double-bogey.
I hit driver, 5-iron to the front of the green and then had a putt, and I hit up, came back down and I hit up and it stayed and I was like 6 feet and I missed it, he said.
Lori Fujikawa was standing next to the green, watching No. 1 at Winged Foot do to her son what it has done to countless golfers over the years.
It was like, No, no, she said. He hit the ball really well. He just couldnt get a putt to drop and it started on that hole.
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