US Open round one: Who said players had to be accurate?
Accuracy off the tee? That’s for wussies isn’t it? Certainly seems so if you’re name’s Bubba Watson, who just about managed to hit seven fairways Thursday, yet finds himself just two shots off the lead in third. He’s not alone. None of the first round top four are higher than 38th for accuracy. The rough, it seems, is not so tough after all.
It’s a point raised on the PGA Tour website, which looks back at last year’s Open to find a similar situation: everyone thought accuracy was the vital ingredient, but the stats said ‘no’. Distance off the tee doesn’t do it either - leader Nick Dougherty is so far behind the bombers he might as well be back in England. You can see from a table I have compiled that a combination of quality approach work and hot putting seems to be doing the trick. It certainly looks like his irons are letting down Brandt Snedeker, who leads for putting.
The big exception, of course, is Tiger Woods, three shots behind after a solid all-round performance. His stats don’t stand out in the crowd, but leave him no higher than 45th for any one discipline, a testament to the way he ground his “conservative” way to the finish line.
So of course he remains the big favourite, but there’s a long way to go and I’ll be interested to see how he fares in Friday’s afternoon session. Face it, even for the world’s No 1 playing catch-up on a track where only two people have managed to get below par is going to be a challenge. Get too aggressive and you could suffer.
The course will likely toughen up from here. You can ignore the crass newspaper headlines about the rain having no effect Thursday. The players were pretty unanimous that it did, which suggests getting under par is going to be an even bigger ask over the weekend. No rain and plenty of sunshine are forecast to harden the course again. On the plus side, the wind looks minimal, meaning easier shot-making and the greens not drying out quite so fast.
I thought for a while Thursday we were in for an English rout, with four St George’s crosses among the leaders. Instead, I guess honours go to the Spanish, with Jose Maria Olazabal showing he has lost little of his mastery and a polished performance by the freshest professional of them all, Pablo Martin. But then we have Sergio Garcia balancing things out by crashing in flames.
Looks like Adam Scott has not got over his humiliation last Sunday. Only seven greens in regulation is his tale of woe.
And let’s hear it for Phil Mickelson, who apparently thinks Oakmont is some kind of wet dream. Mmmmm, thanks for that Lefty. Despite going four over on his round, he insists his damaged wrist is not an issue. But why else whip his hand off the club as soon as possible after several of his shots?
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