It was a long day. I showed up in the morning and wasn’t sure where to start. Do I watch from the media tent for a bit? Do I follow a group or two? Do I camp out at a hole? I ended up doing a little of both. I actually didn’t run around as much as I usually do at tournaments. But I saw enough. And no, unfortunately, I didn’t catch up with Tiger. I’m letting him come to me rather than running the risk of being trampled by the stampede. Though I do wish I would have witnessed the heckle heard around Pebble Beach.
I walked with Ryan Moore, who had the best bogey of his life, for a few holes — he was paired with long-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros and Michael Sim. But I spent most of the day behind 17 and 18 greens, which was very intriguing and telling — 17 because it was just a trainwreck and 18 because I could sense the noticeable fatigue from players whether they shot 1-under or 6-over.
I watched four groups hit up starting with the group of Edoardo Molinari, Toru Taniguchi and Soren Hansen to the all Aussie one of Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby. I also saw KJ Choi, Tim Clark and Mike Weir. The pin was tucked in the front right guarded by a bunker. I didn’t see a single player intentionally or unintentionally hit straight at it. The guys who knocked it the tightest were Weir and Choi and they were about 15 feet above the hole, just left of it, which is what appeared to be the play. It looked like the best way to approach the pin was to aim a little left and hit it off the slope and hope it would spin back — but they didn’t get much.
All 12 guys I saw looked beaten down by the course regardless of their score. And I thought Ogilvy was going to jump in the Pacific — he was walking dangerously close to edge after putting out for a smooth eight-over.
I spoke with qualifier and Canadian Tour player Kent Eger, who fired a five-over 76 in his debut at the US Open. He described the experience as a “constant grind” and “kept saving” himself with his short game. Overall, he wouldn’t say he felt pleased about his round, but he felt optimistic that he’ll do better tomorrow since he started to find his rhythm in the last seven holes.
I asked him if the wind played a factor and he said it was getting breezy in the afternoon, but it wasn’t too bad. “It’s Pebble Beach, the wind is going to be playing every day. When you’re playing the holes on the ocean, you can tell where the wind is coming from, but when you start getting inside, it’s hard to tell which direction it’s going. And the greens are so small, you have to be so precise. If you don’t have the wind quite dialed in, it’s not hard to come up a little short or a little long.”
Then Eger explained the US Open conditions compared to a regular tournament. Usually there’s the trio of three holes that are tough and then there’s the stretch of holes that are scoring ones, but at the Open, they’re all a great test of golf.
“Every single hole it’s hanging on tight,” he said. It’s a long day because ou can never let your guard down. You almost get a headache by the end of the round. You’re not safe until you get in the hole. You have to be defensive with the putts, you have to put the ball in the right spots [on the green] and in order to get to those spots you have to hit it in the right spot [off the tee] — it’s an uphill battle.”
Yeah, that’s pretty much what we saw on Thursday. And check the leaderboard, but it’s exactly what we’d expect to see at a US Open. Interestingly enough, with scores of two-under 69, the trio of Shaun Micheel, Paul Casey and Brendon de Gonge shot the lowest opening round at the US Open since Colin Montgomerie in 2006 at Winged Foot.
In other news, the media tent is a pretty interesting place. I am fitting in perfectly being that I was shoving my face with food all day and on three different occasions, people told me some of it had missed my mouth. Lovely. Oh, just to reinforce the golf journalist stereotype, someone choked on his food in the dining area on Wednesday. A Golf Digest editor saved the choker’s life by performing the heimlich maneuver, but the poor guy still had to go to the ER because not all of his lunch had been dislodged from his throat. There was some morbid guffawing among the scribes (not ill-willed).
Finally, here are some pictures I took at the driving range that I didn’t have the chance to post on Wednesday.
I must say, Vijay Singh is certainly very photogenic.
And here’s the big Fijian taking a whack with a driver.
Westie! (This one was for Intern Kevin, who has a man crush on him.)
My friend Byron Smith, the alternate long-shot (he didn’t get in, unfortunately).
Dustin Johnson chatting with swing coach Butch Harmon.
Lastly, another one of Miguel Angel Jimenez and his golf-ball cigar holder. Alright. See you in a few hours for Round 2 action.