Fierce winds - a tropical depression is spinning right along the southern Atlantic seaboard - kept most scores high. Tiger Woods, a winner last week in Charlotte, carded a 3-over-par 75 that included three three-putts.
Only about a dozen players are under par. Household names like Woods and Vijay Singh struggled. Others, like Phil Mickelson and Rory Sabbatini, flourished - both are sitting with a share of the lead at 5-under-par.
Here's what some players had to say about the tough conditions in the opening round.
Q. How much of a factor was the wind out there today?
RORY SABBATINI: Obviously it was extremely difficult. You know, just the wind was gusting and it would die down, so you never quite knew at which moment it was going to do either, so you just really had to try and be patient and try and hit shots, regardless of whether the wind blew or died down, that would be consistent.
Q. Did it feel like a different course at all after all the changes?
RORY SABBATINI: You know, the course is definitely playing a lot firmer and a lot faster, almost for me just seems a little easier this year. But the greens are definitely a lot firmer, a lot tougher to get the ball in the scoring position around the holes. We'll just obviously see as the week goes on, it's going to get tougher.
Q. Do you feel in any way that this course owes you?
RORY SABBATINI: I obviously haven't had the best track record here the past couple years, but then again, neither had I at The Masters. But it's a new year, a new start, and hopefully a new result.
Q. Does it surprise you that so many guys haven't been able to do what you did today?
RORY SABBATINI: You know, it's just the conditions are tough out there. It's going to test everyone's patience. You know, it's just one of those days where things seemed to happen for me just at the right time, a couple key shots and just kind of kept the round going. You know, if you don't have these key shots, it definitely makes it a lot harder and more of a grind out there.
Q. This course has always identified the guy playing best through his whole bag, his driving, his irons, his putting. Is it still that way?
RORY SABBATINI: I didn't hit many fairways today, didn't hit many greens, didn't have many putts, so I guess yeah. Yeah, it is, it's going to put a test on anything, and today more so than normal obviously because you just really -- you're going to have to control your distances so well just because if the wind does die down or the wind does pick up, you know, you don't want to have suddenly a 40- or 50-yard difference. You really want to try and minimize your distance control out there.
Q. As of about an hour ago, 20 balls had been hit in the water at 17. Is the wind just tricky there, swirling?
RORY SABBATINI: You know, the thing is you stand up on the hole, and I guess it's only playing about 129 yards or something today, but, you know, 129 yards and you're standing there, and you've got a 7- or 8-iron in your hand, and you're thinking, okay, how far do I need to hit this? It is, it's playing very tough out there because the last thing you want to do is try and hit a shot far enough to get to the back and then the wind die on you or try and hit one to the front and have the wind gust on you. It is, it's going to be a very tough test of patience out there.
Q. Jim Furyk told Rich Lerner that he doesn't even come out to play on days like this. I know he lives here as well as you do. Are these the toughest conditions you've seen this course play under?
VIJAY SINGH: I think so. Monday if it's like this, you're not going out. Hopefully it's not going to blow like this on Thursday, but it did. I was just telling my caddie, next time it blows this hard we need to go out and play to get used to the conditions.
The greens are so firm, the wind was gusting incredible. Standing over putts was difficult, as well. But I'll come back tomorrow fighting.
Q. Was that respectable enough of a first round -- you hung in there, you fought hard all day, but does that keep you within the possibility of having a chance for getting a win on Sunday?
VIJAY SINGH: Oh, yeah, today is only the first day. There are three days to go.
Q. Talk about the conditions today.
VIJAY SINGH: Gusty and not golfing weather, really. Today was weather when you come out here and look around and go back to your car and go home.
Q. Now, you made your first birdie on the front nine on No. 3 on that par 3, but you hit the ball well all day. You've got to feel like you're hitting it okay.
VIJAY SINGH: I'm hitting it good. I feel really good except for those little putts that I need to figure out. I'm pretty comfortable with my game right now. I'm playing well, I feel good, and hopefully this wind dies down a little bit so we can go out and attack the golf course a little bit. I think it's going to blow again tomorrow, so I've got to come out here strong and fight.
Q. It's not supposed to blow as bad tomorrow as today, but I'm going to tell you, that sand shot that you hit on No. 9, that was one of the coolest shots I've ever seen. Talk me through that one. First of all, when I told you that was the coolest shot I ever saw, what did you say?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know.
Q. You said, "What did you expect?"
VIJAY SINGH: There you go, what do you expect?
Q. You are the man, I'm not going to deny that, but talk me through that shot.
VIJAY SINGH: Obviously I knew I could go out and hit it because the wind was right into me, and I just had to keep it under the trees and hook it about ten yards and stop it quickly.
Q. Talk about the highlights of the round and how the course is playing with the wind and all the conditions.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think getting off to a good start with two birdies was a big factor to me. It allowed me to not force birdies or press. I was able to play for par on some of the tougher holes and take advantage of some of the birdie holes, where the pin was more susceptible. I think the start was important.
Q. Was there any hole or a couple of holes where the wind seemed to be at its worst in terms of the gusting and the swirling?
PHIL MICKELSON: There were points where it was a little bit stronger, but I thought that it may not have been the strongest point on 17, but that was certainly the toughest shot, because it would be directly in for 75 percent of the time. But that 25 percent that it wasn't directly in, it blew just across, right-to-left. The club selection would be way off and would probably go over the green.
It was a two-and-a-half-, three-club wind. So the 17th hole was where it was really the toughest.
Q. Can you take us through that hole, what you hit, and did you get a drop there?
PHIL MICKELSON: I hit an 8-iron, just like I did in practice. And in practice I had one that came up just on the front edge, one that came up short in the water and one that flew over the green. I was hoping that this 8-iron would find the surface. It didn't find the putting green, but it found the island, which is all I cared about. I just took a drop from that and was able to chip up to three feet and make that.
Q. You had a collection of pars that seemed to keep your round going. Which one of you most proud of?
PHIL MICKELSON: Most of them were pretty easy. Most of them were off the edge of the green and I was trying to make birdies.
The 12th hole was a tough bunker shot that I had. Probably the biggest one was the 7th hole, which was my 16th. It was late in the day, late in the round, and I was on an elevated green, and was able to hit that to three feet and make par.
Q. How does the course compare, the new course to the old one? What do you like about it and what don't you like about it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I like it a lot more now because it incorporates the short game as a much more important part of the scoring. With the shaved areas around the greens, you have a variety of shots now that you can play. People are chipping with hybrids, chipping with lob wedges, chipping with 4- and 6-irons, and a lot of them are putting it, as well. It really incorporates all different shots, a huge variety of them, whereas in the past it was thick, heavy rough that you were just chopping the ball out of. I think in the years to come the scores will be not nearly as low because the greens will pick up some pace and they'll start breaking like they normally do. Because the speed is a little bit slower than in the past, putts aren't breaking as much and we're able to be more aggressive on the five- and six-footers that have given us fits over the years.
Q. You shot 75 but don't feel all that bad about it?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I hit the ball pretty good today. I had three three-putts today, and consequently 3-over par.
Q. Which one bothered you the most of the three-putts?
TIGER WOODS: All three (laughter). I don't think I've ever had a three-putt that felt good.
Q. What do you have to do to get back in the tournament tomorrow?
TIGER WOODS: Just keep doing like what I did today, stay patient, hit the ball as consistently as I did all day. Just got to make a few more putts. Greens are a little bit tricky to read, different grain out there than we're used to, and I had a tougher time than the guys at the top of the board.
Q. This is going to sound like a loaded question, and it's really not. Do you enjoy playing this golf course, or is this one that you find a little more harder than some? Your scores here have been higher than the norm.
TIGER WOODS: I enjoy this test. I mean, you have to place the golf ball. That's how Pete designed all of his golf courses. You've got to place the golf ball correctly, and if you don't there's going to be a consequence for it.
Q. When did you get put on the clock?
TIGER WOODS: We got put on the clock on 6.
Q. Seemed like there was a full hole and a half, actually between the 14th and the 15th hole. Are you surprised you weren't put on sooner? Were they fast or were the guys in your group slow?
TIGER WOODS: They were put on the clock -- on our front nine they were put on the clock. And then they got going. Then we got going just a little bit to try and make up the gap. But it wasn't enough.
Q. Throw anyone off?
TIGER WOODS: No, no. You're going to take the allotted time because obviously the wind conditions. You're just hoping that you don't have to back off any shots.
Q. When you hit the ball like you did today and it's windy, will you go out and practice or just putt?
TIGER WOODS: No, under these conditions it's really hard to do any practicing out there because the wind is blowing so hard the ball is not really flying. You can't really get a read on how it's flying.
Q. When the greens are tricky, does the wind play a part at all?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I had one putt where the ball blew up the hill a little bit, a putt on No 2., a right-to-left putt that blew uphill. Just got the wrong gust.
Q. At Doral you mentioned that some of the putts were not going in the direction necessarily that your memory had. Did you find some of the same things here?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, definitely. I mean, the greens are new. They're not quite settled yet, and it's going to take a little time. If you put the ball in the correct spots and leave yourself uphill putts, you can be aggressive. When you're putting across slopes, it becomes a little more of a test.
Q. Longest putt you made was probably, what, the ten-footer on 18 to save par?
TIGER WOODS: That's about right, yeah.
Q. How much did ten years of experience on this course help today on these greens?
TIGER WOODS: None (laughter).
Q. Is it just that much different?
TIGER WOODS: It's different grass. We're used to putting on overseed, and now we're putting on Bermuda.
Q. Some of the slopes are different?
TIGER WOODS: They're lessened, they're softer. But still, more than anything, it's just the type of grass we're putting on.
Q. How muddy and messy would it have been if they hadn't done all of this work?
TIGER WOODS: Well, it would have been really tough. I mean, you know, on our so-called dry years, we still would be picking up mud in the practice rounds.
Q. Any today?
TIGER WOODS: No, none today, no, not at all. These fairways drained great and the greens are draining great. They don't have them up to speed, nor do they want to get them up to speed. But it's kind of nice to actually play the golf course this dry.
May 11, 2007
Coming off his thrilling British Open victory over Sergio Garcia in 2007, Padraig Harrington sat down to discuss his game and his chances at the 2008 U.S. Open. "I have spent my last 10 years trying to adapt my swing to play U.S. Open golf," Harrington said. "I'd say the last two years, that and the Masters have attracted my attention more than anything else."
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