A little more than a month after thrusting himself into the spotlight of the professional golfing world with his valiant effort against Tiger Woods in the U.S. Open, Rocco Mediate was at it again Thursday.
Playing in his first major since the runner-up finish to Woods at Torrey Pines South, Mediate battled windy and wet conditions to post a 1-under-par 69 and share the first-round lead in the British Open. Mediate heads into Friday's second round at Royal Birkdale tied with Graeme McDowell and Robert Allenby.
"I have no explanation for that whatsoever," Mediate told reporters of his opening round. "No idea why that happened."
After suffering three bogeys on his first five holes, Mediate bounced back with four birdies in his last 11. The 45-year-old closed with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 to be just one of six players in the 156-man field to avoid finishing above par.
"It's just so hard out there," Mediate said. "There are such narrow corridors out there, those fairways and the wind is blowing a lot. A lot of times you've just got to survive. I think you'll probably hear that from everybody."
Mediate's ability to make crucial puts was the difference, he said. However, Mediate's 40-foot birdie putt at No. 13, his chip in from off the green for birdie at No. 17 and his 20-foot birdie putt at No. 18 served as the highlight material.
"It was just one of those rounds," Mediate said. "It was just up and down and up and down and a couple birdies and here we are. I would have been ecstatic with 73 or 74 today."
Like Mediate, McDowell made his move on the final two holes with consecutive birdies to close at 1 under. His lone bogey of the day came at No. 6 as he played just four days after winning the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.
"It was very important to kind of come down from the elation of Sunday night (on) Monday," McDowell told reporters. "Obviously, a bit of media to deal with and it's important to put it out of your mind and move on. We've got the biggest tournament on the planet to get ready for."
McDowell said he was pleased with the way he worked his way around the golf course and noted that he benefited from some good luck in the form of his later tee time.
"The guys this morning looked like they had a really, really tough time out there in the wind and rain, and we couldn't have had it off much better," McDowell said. "We just had a little bit of wind to deal with all day. Obviously, it was blowing hard, but like I say, you can always handle one or the other, wind or rain, but both together is a pretty tough combo. I felt fortunate to get some good scoring conditions."
Allenby overcame three bogeys on his front nine with four birdies on the back. Like Mediate and McDowell, he also birdied both 17 and 18.
"I played solid. I mean, I hit a lot of good shots," Allenby told reporters. "I just didn't make a lot of putts on the front nine. I had a three-putt in there from not very far, and I had a couple of chances for birdie that I didn't make, but I knew that if I kept hitting the ball well that there was definitely some opportunities to make some birdies."
Other than Mediate once again being in the hunt at a major, perhaps the biggest story was Greg Norman's opening-round 70 to put him in a three-way tie for fourth. The 53-year-old matched bogeys with birdies on both his front and back nines to produce an impressive round.
If anyone was surprised by Norman's play, the Australian said they're certainly not alone.
"I'm probably one of those ones, too," Norman told reporters. "I don't play much. I don't practice much. I probably practice more tennis than golf, but at the same time, there's something about this event that stimulates you."
Still, Norman said he's keeping his expectations for the tournament "realistically low."
"I've just got to manage the process the best I can," said Norman, who is tied with Adam Scott and Bart Bryant at even-par 70. "There are a lot of great players out there ... and I've just got to take one shot at a time and see what happens."
Equally surprising were the struggles of some big-name players. Phil Mickelson's lost ball on No. 6 led to a triple bogey and a 9-over 79, while Ernie Els shot 45 on his final nine holes, finishing with an 80 - his worst round ever in the British Open.
Sergio Garcia, listed as the pre-tournament favorite by local oddsmakers, shot 2-over 72 and is tied for 15th. Defending champion Padraig Harrington, who defeated Garcia in a playoff last year at Carnoustie Golf Club but was questionable with a wrist injury, toughed it out for a 4-over 74, tying him for 38th.
Richard S. Johnson shot a 7-under-par 63 Thursday to take a one-stroke lead in opening round play of the PGA Tour's U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.
Starting with an early tee time, Johnson was already 2 under for the day when he followed three consecutive birdies with an eagle on holes 11-14 at Brown Deer Park. After a bogey at No. 16, he finished with a birdie at the 18th hole.
Brothers Deane Pappas and Brenden Pappas both shot 6-under 64 to trail by a stroke. They could've been the first brothers to ever share the first-round lead at a PGA Tour event, but Johnson sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole to pull ahead.
Robert Garrigus, Dean Wilson and Patrick Sheehan are two back of the lead after rounds of 5-under 65. Kenny Perry, who won last week's John Deere Classic but turned down an invitation to the British Open, carded a 3-under 67 and is tied for 17th.
July 18, 2008
With stellar play on the back nine at Royal Birkdale, Padraig Harrington shot a 69 in the final round to earn a four-shot victory and become Europe's first back-to-back British Open champion in more than a century. He earned nearly $1.5 million and climbed to No. 3 in the world rankings. "I'm really thrilled with the way I felt today on the golf course," Harrington said. "I hit the ball as pure as I could and just felt really good."
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