- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 20, 2009

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. | One by one, they climbed the steep hill toward the 18th green at Bethpage Black in what resembled a parade of major champions Friday in the U.S. Open.

U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods arrived from a bunker, the third time in four holes he failed to find the fairway. Masters champion Angel Cabrera needed a search party to find his ball along the weeds right of the fairway. British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington looked beat after a long two days of too many bogeys.

They have combined to win 19 majors.

They were a combined 14 over par, the only numbers that really mattered in the first round.

“The course is playing tough, obviously,” Woods said after a 74, his highest opening round in a major in three years.

Harrington has struggled all year and had missed three straight cuts going into the U.S. Open, and the problem on rain-soaked Bethpage Black was missing the fairway. He didn’t make a birdie until the 13th hole, and a birdie on the last hole left him with a 76.

Cabrera was smashing his driver, at times 20 yards past Woods, but he missed too many short putts for birdies that could have helped balance the inevitable bogey. He wound up with a 74.

And they didn’t finish it in style, particularly Woods.

“I was even par with four to go, and I was right there, where I needed to be,” Woods said. “Two bad shots and a mud ball later, here we go, and I’m at 4 over par.”

It was his worst start at a major since the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, when he played for the first time in two months because of his father’s death. Woods missed the cut that year, his only weekend off at a major as a pro.

He is danger of leaving early again.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t finish off the round the way I needed to,” Woods said.

Neither did Cabrera, the only man who can capture the Grand Slam this year. He also was trying to get back to even par, but those hopes vanished when he tried to reach the 605-yard 13th hole in two and hit 3-wood into the trees on his way to a bogey.

Asked if he was surprised by Woods’ poor finish, Cabrera shook his head.

“He’s human,” he said.

The major champions all looked that way in the first round.

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