Jun 18, 2015 11:45 PM
The Latest: Plenty of surprises in opening round of US Open
The Associated Press
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. (AP) The latest from the U.S. Open (all times local):
The opening round of the U.S. Open is complete.
Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson are feeling good, their rounds of 5-under 65 in the morning holding up as conditions became tougher in the afternoon.
Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler are bumming, their inability to get around links-style Chambers Bay leaving them a combined 21 over par.
There were other, more positive surprises Thursday. Brian Campbell, an amateur, was among the last on the course and shot 67. Journeyman pro Kevin Chappell shot 69.
Masters champion Jordan Spieth opened with a 68, while Phil Mickelson had a 69 as he once again pursues the one major that has long eluded him.
There figures to be just as much intrigue in Friday's second round, especially if Spieth is correct: "It's only going to get more challenging from here," he said.
Tiger Woods didn't beat many people in the opening round of the U.S. Open.
He got the better of at least one.
"At least I kicked Rickie's butt," Woods said with a forced smile.
Woods shot 10-over 80 on Thursday at Chambers Bay, where the greens turned into rolling lumps of asphalt and the winds began to whip. But he still was one better than playing partner Rickie Fowler, whose round of 81 was better than only one other player among 156 in the field.
Fowler forced a smile, too, when asked about the struggles of a high-profile group that included Louis Oosthuizen shooting 77. Fowler's candid response: "I think we're happy just to be upright, alive and moving on with the day."
The nightmare is over for Tiger Woods and the rest of his group, at least for now.
Woods finished with a bogey on the final hole Thursday to shoot 10-over 80 in his opening round at the U.S. Open. Playing partner Louis Oosthuizen shot 77 and Rickie Fowler shot 81.
That's 28 over for their group.
Their struggles were encapsulated by the final hole, where thousands had stuck around in the largest grandstand on the course to see one of the featured groups.
First, Woods topped a fairway metal like a 20-handicap hacker, the ball scooting through one bunker and into the next. Then, Fowler fileted his shot on the par 5 into the fescue to the right. Oosthuizen dumped his approach into a greenside bunker.
They all smiled after finishing their rounds, though.
Probably just happy to be done.
The scores continue to soar during the afternoon at the U.S. Open, where greens have gotten firm and fast and a stiff wind has picked up speed along Puget Sound.
Most of the red numbers posted during the opening round Thursday were played in the morning, when the undulating putting surfaces were slower and more receptive. But there have been precious few good rounds among the afternoon wave of players.
Jordan Spieth, Ben Martin and amateur Brian Campbell are among the exceptions.
But far more have posted huge numbers, including the trio playing together of Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Louis Oosthuizen.
Will it all even out when the waves are reversed on Friday?
Rickie Fowler finally stepped up at the U.S. Open.
In a manner of speaking.
Fowler's approach shot was headed for the bunker on the par-4 16th hole late in his first round Thursday when it came to rest on one of the wooden steps, which are supposed to help players get to the bottom of the waste areas but also come into play.
Fowler was granted a free drop just off the putting surface.
It didn't end up doing much good. Fowler still ended up making bogey, his fifth of the day to go with two doubles and a triple. He fell to 10 over and tied for 153rd place.
If the old adage about auto racing is true that fans relish the wrecks then longtime NASCAR broadcaster Fox must have loved Tiger Woods on Thursday night.
In its first year with the U.S. Open, and in primetime no less, Fox made sure to show every shot taken by the three-time champion. And there were plenty of them.
Into the wispy fescue lining the fairways. Over the patchy greens. Through the gnarly bunkers. Even onto a trampled-down bit of hard-pack where the gallery was walking.
Woods had no birdies through 15 holes, but he did have seven bogeys and a triple. That left him 10 over, better only than club pro Rich Berberian Jr. among the 156 players.
Brian Campbell is climbing the leaderboard at the U.S. Open.
The cool amateur from California had four birdies in a bogey-free back nine on Thursday. He headed to the front nine just a stroke behind the leading trio of Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson, both in the clubhouse, and Ben Martin.
Incidentally, when asked what his dream foursome would consist of, Campbell ticked off Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and wait for it Dustin Johnson.
Woods, meanwhile, continues to struggle. After a bogey at No. 11 left him 5 over, he hit his tee shot so far wide of the fairway on the 12th that he couldn't even see the green.
Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Louis Oosthuizen were asked to pick up their pace by rules official Mark Russell after a sizeable gap opened between them and the group ahead.
It would help if they started to play better.
The trio of big names played the front nine at the U.S. Open on Thursday in a combined 16 over. Fowler was 8 over by himself, dropping all those shots in a four-hole stretch.
They spent time in the sand. Time in the knee-high fescue. Just about the only place the three players didn't spend a whole lot of time on was the fairway.
Russell said they were not given an official warning, just a polite prodding.
Gary Woodland was taken to Tacoma General Hospital and treated for dehydration after he shot 4-over 74 in the opening round of the U.S. Open on Thursday.
Woodland's agent, Mark Steinberg, said in a statement that Woodland had been under the weather since Sunday. He received IV fluids before his round but still felt ill afterward, and tests at the hospital confirmed that Woodland has a virus.
He was treated with more IV fluids and hopes to play the second round Friday.
One of the game's biggest hitters, Woodland has won twice on the PGA Tour. He's made the cut three times in five U.S. Opens. His best U.S. Open finish was a tie for 23rd two years ago.
Tiger's trials continue at the U.S. Open.
After bogeys on four of his first six holes, Tiger Woods hit into the deep fescue far to the right of the eighth fairway. When he took a big hack at his next shot, he let go of the club and it flew like an unbalanced boomerang and landed about 15 yards behind him.
He advanced the ball but not enough to escape the rough.
Woods, in the midst of a massive slump, pitched onto the green from there. After rolling his putt right over the hole, Woods made a 5-footer to save par.
Things weren't going a whole lot better for the rest of his group. Rickie Fowler made bogey at the eighth to drop to 4 over. Louis Oosthuizen had a double bogey and also was 4 over.
Nobody has had a more eventful first three holes at the U.S. Open than Camilo Villegas.
The Colombian started on the back side with a pair of birdies Thursday, then hit into a greenside bunker on the short, par-4 12th. That's when things turned downright silly.
With his ball buried, Villegas declared an unplayable lie. But rather than going backward and dropping on a line with the hole, Villegas decided to try dropping within two club lengths of the original spot. When it kept rolling into the bunker, he placed it in the tall fescue.
Forgetting to rake the tracks left by the rules official in the bunker, Villegas chopped at his ball, which went a couple feet and then rolled back into the footprint. He tried to splash out from there and the ball rolled back into his new divot. He tried to get out once again and watched his ball helplessly roll back into the bunker.
He finally dug out of his hole for a crowd-pleasing triple bogey.
It's an exclusive club of players that have completed the modern career grand slam by winning each of golf's four major championships.
Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are in it. So are Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazan.
Then there's Gary Player, who joined it when he won his only U.S. Open in 1965 at Bellerive near St. Louis. Player beat Kel Nagle in an 18-hole playoff to win the tournament.
Player returned to South Africa, where he picks up the story:
"They had a school band," he said. "They had politicians. They had everyone to meet me. In those days you could just walk out on the tarmac, so my children were there to meet me."
Phil Mickelson is trying to join the club this weekend at Chambers Bay. He opened with a 1-under 69.
The greens at Chambers Bay are a bit patchy, a bit bumpy. They certainly don't resemble the flawless, verdant putting surfaces that you might find at Augusta National.
Sergio Garcia doesn't like it, either.
After finishing off an even-par 70 in the opening round of the U.S. Open, Garcia took to Twitter to call the greens "as bad as they look on TV."
About 30 minutes later, Garcia defended his opinion in another tweet: "I think a championship the caliber of @usopengolf deserves better quality green surfaces than we have this week but maybe I'm wrong!"
Garcia had 33 putts in his round.
Tiger Woods had made bogey on the opening hole in eight of his last nine events.
Make it nine out of 10.
After dumping his approach shot into the high fescue short of the green at the par-4 first at Chambers Bay on Thursday, Woods hacked out and made bogey to start his U.S. Open.
Things didn't get a whole lot better at the par-4 second.
Woods missed the fairway with an iron off the tee, knocked his approach shot into the bunker short of the green, then splashed out long of the hole. Two putts for another bogey.
So much for that extra work Woods put in after his final practice round Wednesday.
Henrik Stenson's caddie had one goal at the U.S. Open this week: Don't fall.
Now he's walking around with a cast on his wrist.
The treacherous terrain got the best of Gareth Lord during a practice round Wednesday when he fell on the 16th tee box. Lord wound up getting his wrist trapped under the bag, and Stenson said "it might be broken and stuff in there, or just torn ligaments and stuff."
Lord spent a couple of hours in the emergency room but still wanted to work Thursday.
The fall, Stenson said, came just after Lord had turned to him and said, "I don't fall this week. That would make a great week."
Lord wasn't the only casualty. Stenson said that Stephen Gallacher's caddie, Damian Moore, went down a short while later. Moore wound up hurting his ankle.
Bubba Watson insists that he wasn't perturbed by the pace of play.
Known for his rather short temper, Watson had to wait to hit his approach shot to No. 18 during the first round of the US Open on Thursday. When he went left, he muttered loud enough for the cameras: "Waiting 30 minutes. This is pathetic."
Pace of play has been a concern at Chambers Bay because of the rugged terrain and long walks between greens and tees.
Asked later about the slow pace and his reaction on 18, Watson replied: "We've been waiting all day. I just hit a bad shot. I'm not going to pout. We've all seen articles written about me that I'm a pouter. It's nothing new."
Watson, by the way, still shot even-par 70.
Dustin Johnson missed his first bogey-free round in the U.S. Open by inches.
He still posted a 5-under 65 to match Henrik Stenson and lead the morning wave of players.
He had six birdies and no bogeys until the par-3 ninth, his final hole of the day, when he hit his tee shot into the thick fescue guarding a greenside bunker.
Johnson took a mighty hack, popped the ball out and watched it track off a steeply pitched side of the green and roll toward the hole. He had a 15-footer for par that he left short.
There was no secret for Johnson, who tied for fourth a year ago. He said, "I just hit the ball really well. Drove it well. Hit my irons well. Had really good looks for birdie all day."
Phil Mickelson opened with a 1-under 69 at the U.S. Open on Thursday as he tries to complete the career grand slam by winning the tournament that has frustrated him most.
The six-time U.S. Open runner-up was steady all the way around Chambers Bay, making three birdies and two bogeys.
Playing in the same group, Bubba Watson and Angel Cabrera each shot 70 as the wind stayed down and the course was ripe for scoring.
Imagine how slow play would have been if it was windy.
Mickelson's group spent about 15 minutes waiting for the tee at No. 17 to clear, then another 15 minutes in the fairway at 18. When Watson yanked his approach shot to the left of the green, he muttered: "Waiting 30 minutes. This is pathetic professional golf."
Michael Putnam played the first official round at Chambers Bay. Now he's finished off the first round of the U.S. Open, a round of 70 that he capped with a birdie on No. 18.
The player from nearby Tacoma estimates he has played the course 30 or 40 times, but even with good weather Thursday the setup made the course "still really, really tough."
Apparently, not tough enough for Dustin Johnson.
The big hitter was 2-under when he made the turn, then began his second nine the front side of the course with birdies on three of his first five holes.
Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar and Adam Scott were among a dozen players also in the red.
One of the unique aspects of Chambers Bay is the train tracks running along the shore line and next to the golf course.
Unique is one way to look at it. Annoying may be another.
Take Jamie Donaldson. After putting off the green on the par-3 17th and into a bunker, Donaldson's 6-foot bogey putt came with a southbound Amtrak train screeching past. Instead of waiting a few extra seconds, Donaldson sank the putt.
But that wasn't it for Donaldson. As he stood over his tee shot on No. 18, a northbound Amtrak went racing past. Donaldson stepped away instead of hitting with the distraction, but maybe he should have hit anyway. With the train gone, he pulled his tee shot into the left fairway bunker.
Gary Player offered some sobering words on the state of golf Thursday.
The nine-time major winner said during the first round of the U.S. Open that the game is in "dire straits." Player reflected that "we're getting less and less players, you can buy a course for a dollar if you take over the debt which nobody does. We're desperately running out of water."
The 1965 U.S. Open champion went on to talk about the cost of the game, the use of fertilizers and their environmental effects, even the price of machinery to keep courses pristine.
So as the world's best players tried to conquer all the complexities of Chambers Bay, Player offered a simple question: "Where are we going with all this?"
Golf purists have spent the week arguing that Chambers Bay is not a true links course, yet the first round of the U.S. Open is producing play reminiscent of St. Andrews or Royal County Down.
Creativity is paramount. Strange bounces and awkward results are inevitable.
Take the pitch shot Bubba Watson hit early Thursday that rolled up to the green, made a left turn and rolled right back. Or the shot that Rory McIlroy insisted that he hit well that found a bunker.
Then there's that tall fescue lining the fairways. Dustin Johnson found himself in it, took a mighty swing and watched the ball squirt out to the side. He turned to his caddie, his brother Austin, and said only half-jokingly: "I guess I'll just chip it out."
Chambers Bay is not exactly a spectator-friendly course, even though it was built with the U.S. Open in mind.
Sure, there are massive grandstands and plenty of perches for fans. But huge sand dunes also obscure many views. Tricky footing will lead to plenty of twisted ankles. Squishy paths of sand are difficult to plod through. And the layout is sometimes so disorienting that several players and caddies got hopelessly lost earlier in the week as they tried to make their way around.
Binoculars are sure to be the tool of choice among fans.
One has to wonder whether the people riding jet skis just off shore in the Puget Sound have just as good of a view, without having to buy a ticket or deal with traffic and crowds.
It's a painful existence to be Dustin Johnson's golf ball.
The big hitter leads the PGA Tour in driving distance with an average of 317 yards, his mammoth tee shots always generating a collective gasp from the crowd. But that average might increase a tick or two at the U.S. Open, where the dried out fescue in the fairway can produce some big-time roll.
Johnson banged his tee shot at the 528-yard par-4 fourth more than 400 yards, leaving himself what amounted to a pitch-and-putt to the green. His wedge rolled right over the cup, barely missing an eagle.
Many players said this week that big hitters will have an advantage at Chambers Bay, which can be stretched to more than 7,700 yards. But given the roll, even short hitters should be able to handle it.
Unable to wipe a smile from his face all week, Cole Hammer had to brush away a tear on Thursday as the 15-year-old from Houston prepared to tee off in the U.S. Open.
Hammer's big goal this summer was the U.S. Junior Amateur, but he tried to qualify for the Open on a lark. He wound up shooting 64-68 at Northwood Club in Dallas to make the field.
So much for nerves, though. Hammer hit a gorgeous approach shot into the 10th, his first hole of the day, and barely missed the birdie putt. He tapped in for par.
Hammer is the third-youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open. Andy Zhang was 14 in 2012, and Tad Fujikawa was 4 months younger than Hammer when he qualified in 2006.
A Tweet showing Hammer holding back tears: https://twitter.com/jaybusbee/status/611589954435698688
Phil Mickelson was among the first players to embrace the quirks of Chambers Bay.
No wonder: He's already in red figures.
The six-time U.S. Open runner-up birdied two of his first five holes Thursday, quickly moving to the top of the leaderboard. Mickelson also hit a sweeping draw out of knee-high fescue at the par-4 fourth hole, eventually making par out of a tee shot that could have been much worse.
Henrik Stenson later joined him at 2 under.
Rory McIlroy, defending champion Martin Kaymer and a group of Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia are also on the course as the last of the morning wave begins.
Don't look over your shoulder, Phil.
WALL-E is right on your heels.
A four-wheel robot with a camera strapped atop that bore a striking resemblance to the robot from the animated film followed Phil Mickelson's group at Chambers Bay on Thursday.
Mickelson better not look up, either.
As part of its pitch to acquire the U.S. Open, broadcaster Fox promised innovation. So while they had yet to take flight, drones are expected to soar over the links-style course this weekend, giving viewers at home a hawks-eye view of the action.
No word on whether Skynet will be handling its controls.
Here's an image of the robot following Mickelson: https://twitter.com/mattnewman_golf/status/611544260685529088
One of the big questions players had about the U.S. Open this week is how Mike Davis, the USGA executive director responsible for setting up Chambers Bay, would lay out a course with seemingly infinite possibilities.
Davis chose to play the first hole as a 496-yard par-4, rather than a 598-yard par-5. He made the 18th a 604-yard par-5 rather than a 525-yard par-4.
With dozens of tee boxes at his disposal, Davis can play around with the other 16 holes, too. The par-3 ninth can play steeply uphill or with a 100-foot drop to the green.
Oh, and that first hole? Only two players birdied it during stroke play at the U.S. Amateur in 2010. Bubba Watson made double bogey there to start his championship Thursday.
With calm breezes blowing off the Puget Sound, the U.S. Open began Thursday when Michael Putnam teed off at Chambers Bay south of Seattle.
It won't take long before the big names get going.
Perennial bridesmaid Phil Mickelson, with another chance to finish a career grand slam, is in the fourth group with Bubba Watson and Angel Cabrera. A short while later, Rory McIlroy begins his round on the back nine in a group that includes defending champion Martin Kaymer.
Tigers Woods, Masters champ Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day are among those who will start in the afternoon, when the tournament is aired by new broadcaster Fox.