Many players walked off their last hole at Aronimink Golf Club in the first round of the AT&T National and felt like they had just grinded through the first round of the US Open.
“I didn’t do anything crazy on the greens. I just played them solid,” said Joe Ogilivie after posting a three-under 67, a shot off the lead. “This course is set up like a U.S. Open. The fairways are a little bit wider, but it’s definitely playing similar — except for this year’s U.S. Open.”
I walked the back nine with the threesome of Adam Scott, Justin Rose and K.J. Choi, and I felt like I watched the first round of the US Open. All three were hitting good golf shots, but they were also grinding. I almost nodded off a few times (and I mean that in the nicest way possible, but watching guys take four minutes over a four-footer can get boring). Obviously, it’s more exciting to watch a birdie-fest than players toiling over pars. At least we’re finally getting our US Open, right? It’s just too bad the field doesn’t match up.
Justin hit a nice shot into the 11th green and the pin was on the back left shelf. His ball found the top of the ridge — one more roll and it would have stayed up and he would have had a great look for birdie. Instead, it reeled back to the front of the green, leaving him with a 45-footer that would be a tough two-putt.
Adam ended up in the same place. He putted first, not hitting it hard enough and left himself with a ten-footer to save par (after he had just three-jacked from around the same distance on the hole before). Meanwhile, Rose had a little too much speed and had a downhill five-footer for par. I would have rather had Scott’s uphill putt. Both made their pars.
Seriously, if you’re outside 15 feet on most these greens, you’re relieved to walk away with a two-putt. I played Aronimink last October and I must have three-putted eight times! The course was firm, fast and super tough last fall. As you may recall, I teed it up at Congressional the Monday after the US Open. I found Aronimink was more difficult in October on a random Sunday than Congressional in June a day after a major championship.
“I have to say it’s set up very, very nicely here,” said Scott, smiling uncomfortably when asked if today felt more like the US Open than the actual one. “It’s a great golf course, obviously, but in great shape. They’ve set the course up beautifully. You know, the greens are perfect, and they’ve got very generous fairways, but severe rough, which is a nice balance. There’s good scores out there, but you have to play well, I think.
“My only comment about the US Open was they obviously didn’t get the greens where they really would have liked them, I think. And here, I think they’ve got the greens probably where the US Open would have liked them on a Thursday.”
In other words, the greens are perfect. And the course is only going to get firmer and faster.
On the 13th hole Rose, the defending champion, hit what appeared to be a nice shot, landing about 15 feet short of the back pin. From where I was watching, I couldn’t see the hole, but I had a feeling it was too much and rolled off the back of the green. It did. In a burst of frustration, Rose threw down his hat. His chip from the rough just off the green went 10 feet past the hole and he missed the putt. Annoying to make bogey from the middle of the fairway, but that will happen at the ‘Mink.
“It’s ball-striking,” said Sean O’Hair, who shot six-over. “That’s all there is to it. You can’t play this golf course and not hit fairways, and off the tee on a scale from 1 to 10 I was a 2. I might have hit one good drive today, and everything wasn’t quite in place.
“I think the golf course is in great shape, and if you hit fairways you can score out there, but out of that rough and with the greens being as quick and as firm as they are, it’s just tough to score.”
O’Hair is a local favorite and a member at Aronimink.
“The rough is thicker (than the US Open at Congressional), and I don’t think they’re going to do anything about it because of the heat,” said Robert Garrigus, who shot two-under and is tied for seventh. “But the rough is thicker here and the greens are firmer, and I don’t think under double digits is going to win this week. I think right around 10-under par will get it done this week.”
Garrigus finished T3 at the US Open, earning him Low American honors.
Only 28 players in the 118-player field broke par on Thursday.