It's just so strange to be watching our favorite PGA Tour players struggling at the Olympic Club on the first round of the US Open. I'm actually watching right now and with all the players either on the course or already done there are currently only 5 players under par out of over 150 guys. FIVE players. We know the US Open course is going to be tough, long roughs, fast greens, and tight fairways. But this is a whole new level of hard when best players in the world can't break par.
Even the announcing team has to change their usual chatter...they are celebrating bogey saves and continually reporting in on some unforunate bounce or extremely difficult lie in the rough. Chip shots or approach shots over 20 feet away are applauded. It's rough out there...literally.
I know how Luke Donald felt today...I think I missed three 3-foot putts in 4 holes. The stroke felt good, the ball was rolling, but it was just not dropping. I knpw how it feels to keep spraying the ball right, although thankfully the course I play doesn't have those trees! I know the feeling of looking down a fairway and all of a sudden the short grass looks tight and the rough and bunkers seem like ball magnets. I know what it's like to feel like I have to 'make' something happen on the course and any logic about what the 'smart shot' is goes out the window. The good news is there was some smart golf shots out in San Francisco today.
When I talked to my Mom earlier, she commented on how she thought Tiger played some smart golf today. Seeing an iron in his hand on the tee made me realize that he's already looking to being in the mix on Sunday. Like they say, you can't win it on the first day, but you can sure put yourself out of reach if you're not smart.
A course set up like a US Open is not only a test of a golfers ability but also of his mental stamina. Can a player avoid the meltdown and not take the lip outs and bad breaks personally? Can a player keep telling himself that there's a chance to get one back on the next hole and believe it? Or will the negative thoughts elbow in and be another obstacle?
We saw gilmmers of hope for all golfers in this first round...the double eagle by Nick Watney, and the 8 other Eagles and 273 birdies let all the field know there are low scores out there. In looking at the first round stats on www.usopen.com, it looks like players need to grind it out on the front and then take advantage of birdie opportunities on the back. Pars are good...heck, they are great this week!
It's all about how you get them...a scramble par is a great feeling...a par because you missed a 5 footer for birdie, not so fun. But I think that a player in US Open conditions needs to be thankful for any and every par no matter how their gotten.
When we put things in perspective, a US Open just seems to make PGA Tour players more, well, human. We get it. Now heaven only knows what Matt Kuchar or Steve Stricker would shoot if they got to play my course from my tees, but for the next few days I'm going to see their rounds through my golf eyes and understand the challenges a little bit more.
Enjoy the US OPEN!!