Australian golfers Geoff Ogilvy and Stuart Appleby are just one behind the leaders after the first round of the US Open Golf at Torrey Pines in southern California.
Ogilvy and Appleby were two under par at 69 behind the joint leaders, little known Americans Kevin Streelman and Justin Hicks.
Ogilvy, the 2006 champion, recovered from two bogeys in his opening three holes, to finish with five birdies.
Robert Allenby, who finished just one stroke further back, was earlier threatening the leaders and at one stage had five birdies in six holes.
It was also good to see two time champion Ernie Els back in contention. He finished one under along with Allenby, Vijay Singh and Crazy Phil Mickelson, who left his driver at home in favour of a three wood and an extra wedge.
World Number 3 Adam Scott was the next best Australian at two over, with Aaron Baddeley and Rod Pampling a further shot back at three-over.
The much hyped teaming of Tiger Woods-Crazy Phil-Adam Scott attracted huge galleries in the sell-out crowd (and the sort of blanket US network hyperventilating we predicted below).
The Woods-Crazy Phil-Scott show will be much better for free to air Australian television audiences Saturday morning, with the threesome scheduled to tee off 36 minutes after the Channel 10 coverage begins at 6am (EST).
That will be just after lunch San Diego time and the beverage fuelled afternoon crowd might not be as polite and cultured as they were for the group’s morning tee off today (Fri).
Galleries up to five deep surrounded every hole, producing a repeated chorus of “Lets go, Tiger” and “C’mon Phil.”
“I thought it was great,” Mickelson, who lives nearby, said of his home town crowd. “There were not any derogatory remarks. Whether they pulled for any of the three of us, everybody was really cool today. I was very proud to be from here.”
Mickelson acknowledged that there was not as much banter between the three competitors.
“I know it’s a big pairing,” Adam Scott admitted after the round. “There’s a lot of hoopla about it. But … I played with Phil a lot in majors. It seems like I get drawn with him a lot. But I enjoy playing with Tiger, as well. I find it is a lot easier to focus, because I think I’ve got to be a lot more disciplined.”
Scott – who corrected that it was a bone in his hand broken in a car door recently, not his little finger – was overall happy with his game. He just wanted to sink a few more putts.
That little finger, undamaged as it was, had a fair bit of media attention, but nothing like Tiger Wood’s knee.
Coming back after surgery, Woods hit his first competition shot – and his first shot of the US Open – into the rough, leading to a double-bogey first hole. He had another double bogey on the back nine and three putted the par five final hole to finish one over at 72.
“To make two double-bogeys and a three-putt and be only four back, that’s a great position to be in,” Woods said. “Because I know I can clean that up tomorrow.”
US Open first round scores:
-3: Justin Hicks 68, Kevin Streelman 68
-2: Stuart Appelby (Australia) 69, Eric Axley 69, Rocco Mediate 69, Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) 69
-1: Robert Allenby (Australia) 70, Ernie Els 70, Ricki Fowler 70, Robert Karlsson 70, Lee Westwood
E: Patrick Sheehan 71, Joe Ogilvie 71, Phil Mickelson 71, Carl Pettersson 71, Andres Romero 71, Vijay Singh 71, Luke Donald 71
+2: Adam Scott (Australia) 73
+3: Rod Pampling (Australia) 74, Aaron Baddeley (Australia) 74
+4: Craig Parry (Australia) 75, Jarrod Lyle (Australia) 75
+6: Mathew Goggin (Australia) 77
+7: Michael Campbell (New Zealand) 78
Our prediction for the US Open is that the American television networks will be in an ecstatic frenzy of self pleasuring over the opportunity of having Tiger Woods and Crazy Phil Mickelson paired together for the two opening rounds.
Even some US commentators are suggesting there has already been too much hype about the coupling, especially considering Tiger’s dodgy knee and Crazy Phil’s form at the event, even though it is virtually a home town course for him.
Still, it will be fun to watch and the other good thing about the pairing is that it is actually a threesome, with World No 3 Aussie golfer Adam Scott intruding on the party.
Even the US networks won’t be able to ignore Scott completely in their frenzied focus on the Woods-Mickelson juggernaut, and we should at least get some passing glimpses of Adam – at least by accident.
Scott, nursing a broken right pinkie finger, (good opportunity for a non Woods-Mickelson close-up there) is one of nine Australian golfers competing at this year’s Open, to take place at Torrey Pines, San Diego, starting early Friday morning (EST).
It is a measure of the health of Australian golf that as a nation it has the third most starters behind the US (too many to count) and the UK (11 starters). Sweden has eight, Canada seven and South Africa six.
As well as Scott – still waiting to win his first major but at 27 has plenty of time – a number of Aussies have been mentioned as possible winners.
(And as for the experts’ picks, as one US golf writer suggested, hands up all those who predicted Argentinean Angel Cabrera would win the 2007 US Open at Oakmont, Aussie Geoff Ogilvy at Winged Foot in ’06 or Kiwi Michael Campbell at Pinehurst in ’05?)
As a former champion with a long game that is said will suit the punishing Torrey Pines south course, Ogilvy has been pushed as a contender.
Then there is Aaron Baddeley, who don’t forget was leading into the final round last year before imploding on the first few holes. He learnt a lot from that experience and is back with renewed confidence.
“I feel like my game is at that level,” Baddeley said this week.
“If I can play my game I definitely have a chance to win. You have to drive it straight. I can do that. I know I can putt well,” he said.
“Last year it was one of the hardest, if not the hardest, golf course in America. I was leading after 54 holes.”
Robert Allenby is another entering the tournament in a positive frame of mind after finishing equal second behind American Justin Leonard at the Stanford St Jude Championship.
Tasmanian Matthew Goggin is a 300/1 longshot, despite his recent hot form, and isn’t phased by the fact that at 6988m, Torrey Pines will be the longest ever US Open course by more than 300m. Goggin was surprised during his first practice round to encounter playable rough and soft greens.
“They’re obviously trying not to have the rough unplayable, to try to tempt you to go for the greens if you miss fairways,” Goggin said.
“I wouldn’t say this is the toughest course in America, but I guess we’ll find out. As a par 71, it’s going to be long and demanding but Oakmont (site of last year’s Open), I’ve never seen a course that hard.”
The other Australian entrants are Stuart Appleby, Jarrod Lyle, Rod Pampling and Craig Parry.
At 42, “Popeye” Parry is an ASG favourite. We are not saying he is going to win, but he does boast the best ever US Open round of any of the Australians competing this year – a 66 at Baltusrol in 1993. And, as well as bolting to win the Australian Open last year, he does have the added advantage of definitely not having been picked by any of the US pundits this week.
Note: Australian free to air television coverage of the US Open begins on Friday 6am – Midday (EST) on Channel Ten. By our (suspect) international time conversion calculations, that’s about five hours after the Woods-Crazy Phil-Adam Scott tee off.
We predict you can catch them teeing off for the second round at 6.36am on 10 on Saturday morning. Daily Foxtel coverage begins at Midday.