THE OLYMPIC CLUB certainly lived up to the pre-tournament hype, causing carnage amongst the world’s best golfers in the first round of the 2012 US Open today.
The tournament leader after day one was unheralded 27 year old American Michael Thompson who shot a 4-under 66 to take a three stroke lead over pre-tournament favourite Tiger Woods and three others on the second rung of the leaderboard.
The world’s top three ranked golfers – Luke Donald (78), defending champion Rory McIlroy (77) and Lee Westwood (73)- played together and came home with a combined tally of 19-over – giving some testimony to the difficulty of the Lake Course set-up.
Australia’s best was current Nationwide Tour player Alistair Presnell who shot par and is tied in third place.
Thompson was runner-up on this course in the 2007 US Amateur but has hardly set the world on fire since turning pro the following year.
His best finish on the US PGA Tour is a third in 2011 and his best in 2012 was T6 at the Sony Open early in the year.
The big question is whether he will be able to hold things together should he progress. He was out early and it was all easy and carefree but it might be a different story should be leading the US Open going into the third or fourth round.
“Today was fun with Colt [Colt Knost (81), the 2007 US Amateur winner],” Thompson said. “We talked about the U.S. Amateur and the changes with the golf course from then ‘til now. And just joking and just enjoying, I guess, each other’s company.”
They started at the same time but on the opposite nine to one of the “Big Three” groups – Woods (71), Phil Mickelson (76) and Bubba Watson (78), who attracted a gallery of some 20,000.
“It was really relaxed out there,” Thompson, an Alabama resident, said. “… It’s nice, one, to play well in front of family and friends, but also just to hear them cheering and screaming and enjoying themselves, as well. It was just fun. The Tiger, Bubba, Phil thing, that’s exciting. That’s typical USGA, putting the big three together. I think it’s great for golf. Hopefully one of these days in the future I’ll be part of that group.”
Woods finished on 1-under along with 2010 winner Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, David Toms and Nick Watney, who was helped more than somewhat by a 2 on the par 5 seventeenth.
Woods looked ominous in search of his 15th major and a real chance of ending the four year drought since the 14th.
The 36-year-old was never out of position, none of his tee shots found the deep, nasty rough lining the fairways. There was little stress for such a demanding course.
Consecutive birdies late in his round included a 35-foot putt that banged into the back of the cup on No. 5.
“I felt like I had control of my game all day,” Woods said. “Just stuck to my game plan — and executed my game plan.”
In his debut major appearance, Aussie Alistair Presnell (70) was on the third rung of the leaderboard along with seven others including Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter, Robert Karlsson and American amateur Beau Hossler.
Presnell began his major career with a bogey but then parred the next five punishing opening holes, before evening things up by putting his drive on the short par four seventh onto the green and two-putting for birdie.
“I was certainly nervous, I’m still nervous,” Presnell said afterwards.
“But it was nice to stick to a routine out there that I’ve been working on for a while and it held up through the first five holes, well six holes, after an early bogey on the first. To have a birdie there on seven and hit a great tee shot in on eight got me a little bit more comfortable out there.”
John Senden (72) finished the next best Aussie on 2-over with Rod Pampling hitting 74, Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley on 75, Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Brendan Jones and Anthony Summers all on 6-over.
Not brilliant, but at least they are above the present projected cut line at 7-over.
There’s some big names outside that projected cut line including major winners McIlroy, Stewart Cink, Louis Oosthuizen, and Zach Johnson on 7-over, and Bubba Watson and Luke Donald on 8-over.
Australian television live coverage resumes Saturday morning 6am to Noon, but you won’t find anything on free to air.2012 US Open Leaderboard