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10th hole not so daunting early at US Open
Stewart Cink, Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer were among the five players to make birdie in the first 90 minutes of play Thursday on the par-3, where the tee boxes have been moved up to take some of the bite out of a hole that has been generating buzz at the year’s second major.
The hole, listed at 218 yards, is playing shorter and players starting their round on the back nine are taking advantage in the early going.
Cink, the former British Open champion, and Donald, the world No. 1, each followed their birdies with another on No. 11 to share the early lead at 2-under par.
There were some more typical U.S. Open moments on 10, as well.
Three minutes into the opening round, Marc Turnesa already was playing his third shot from the drop zone after his opening tee shot found the water. Two minutes later, a light rain started falling and the first umbrella came out.
The rain came and went _ more of a nuisance than anything, but with cloud cover, it was likely to keep the greens slightly softer. There was a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms hitting later in the day.
Harrison Frazar, coming off his first PGA Tour victory last week in the St. Jude Classic, made his first birdie on No. 11, one of a withering number of long par-4s on the 7,574-yard course _ the second longest in Open history. Frazer pulled his tee shot into the left rough, but had enough of a shot that he pounded a mid-iron onto the front of the green, then rolled in a birdie from just under 40 feet. He bogeyed two of the next five holes, however, and was in a big group at 1 over that included Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk.
Others to birdie No. 10 were former PGA champion Y.E. Yang and qualifier Nicolas Colsaerts.
The par-3s at Congressional are what you’d expect from a U.S. Open course. They’re all long, or uphill, or over water, or some combination of all that.
The 10th is a topic of conversation this year, as the U.S. Open returns to the Washington area for the first time since Ernie Els won at Congressional in 1997. That year, No. 10 was the 18th hole, but closing out a major on a par-3 turned out to be a bust, emphasized when Colin Montgomerie, in the running along with Els, waited more than 10 minutes to putt on No. 17 for fear the noise on the adjacent 18th would disrupt him.
Montgomerie missed, Els finished the tournament with an anticlimactic par and the idea of finishing a major on a par-3 was tossed in the scrap heap.
So, in addition to moving that hole to the start of the back nine and making the old No. 17 the new No. 18, the club tore up the par-3 and transformed it from an uphill shot where the water wasn’t really in play to a downhill shot with a 200-yard forced carry onto a narrow green. Quite a way to kick off the round for half the field on the first two days.
“The average guy can’t play that hole,” Phil Mickelson said in criticizing the design. “He can’t carry that water and get it stopped on that green. So when I play that hole, 3 is a great score.”
But 2 was available early Thursday.
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