Every U.S. Open round has its own personality. The machinations of the USGA — where it puts the pins and tees - have much to do with it. So, sometimes, does Mother Nature. But if Thursday is any indication, we could be watching a different kind of Open this week, something more along the lines of a Six Flags ride.
When you think of our national golf championship, you think of players grinding out pars, players in damage-control mode, players going about their business ve-ry cau-tious-ly. It’s the nature of the beast. Par, after all, is a good score in the Open. Heck, par is often good enough to win.
But that’s not what we saw in the first round at Congressional. What we saw in the first round was a game of Chutes and Ladders. Bogeys, birdies, birdies, bogeys — just a lot of volatility from hole to hole.
Take Matt Kuchar. Usually when you have five bogeys, including a double, on Thursday, you’re wondering whether you’re going to make the cut. But Kuchar also had five birdies to finish with a thoroughly respectable 72 — and is still very much in the picture at 1-over.
It was like that for quite a few players. A sampling:
Brad Benjamin: five birdies, five bogeys (a double among them), 72.
Brandt Jobe: five birdies, five bogeys, 71.
Bubba Watson’s last seven holes went like this: four straight birdies to get to 3-under, followed by three straight bogeys to end up even par.
Angel Cabrera, meanwhile, had a 12-hole stretch that featured four birdies and four bogeys. He, too, shot a 71.
“If you’ve got your ball in position off the tee, there were certainly plenty of nice pin positions, a few pins and bowls that you feel like you can make some birdies,” said three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, another in the group at 71.
Then there was this from Ryan Palmer, who was the low American at 69: “I hit a lot of wedges today. The greens aren’t quite as firm yet or fast. There’s definitely some birdies to be had.”
It was more than just the conditions, though (e.g. the early-morning rain that softened the greens). It was Congressional itself. As Phil Mickelson noted earlier in the week, the course has some brutally hard holes, but it also has some fairly easy ones - by Open standards, at least. So if a player hits a rough stretch, it may not necessarily ruin his round. There are places, particularly on the front side (1, 5, 6, 7, 8 and even 9 when the tee is up) where he can make up lost ground.
Louis Oosthuizen, for instance, began his day with bogeys at 1 and 2. Ordinarily, this might have been a prelude to disaster, to a Saturday morning hotel checkout. But the defending British Open champ pulled himself together, made six birdies the rest of the way and stayed in contention with a 69.
“I made four bogeys,” he said, “but on this golf course, there are a lot of bogeys out there. But you’ve at least got opportunities for birdies.”View Entire Story
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Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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