Hen­drik Sten­son and Dustin John­son share US Open lead; Tiger shoots 80

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

One mys­tery was solved Thurs­day in the U.S. Open. Cham­bers Bay can be as hard as the USGA wants it to be. Hen­rik Sten­son and Dustin John­son shared the lead at 5-un­der 65, and the other 23 play­ers who man­aged to break par in a gen­tle de­but of the new golf course off Puget Sound agreed that it likely will only get tougher the rest of the way.

Another mys­tery deep­ened. Tiger Woods.

In a hole deeper than that bunker he found by top­ping a 3-wood on his fi­nal hole, Woods sunk to another low with the high­est open­ing round of his PGA Tour ca­reer and his worst score by three shots in two decades at the U.S. Open. He shot an 80, which would have been even more shock­ing if he hadn’t had two scores even worse al­ready this year.

“I fought. I fought hard. And that was my num­ber,” Woods said.

At least this time he had com­pany. Woods beat only two play­ers in the 156-man field. One of them was Rickie Fowler, who shot an 81.

Their scores were hardly a re­flec­tion of the way Cham­bers Bay was play­ing.

John­son was flaw­less and pow­er­ful. His only mis­take came on his fi­nal hole when he pulled a 6-iron on the par-3 ninth over the green and made his only bo­gey. Sten­son, among the cyn­i­cal of Cham­bers Bay when he first saw it, birdied four of his last five holes. He poured in a 25-footer on the 18th for his 65.

They had a one-shot lead over Pa­trick Reed.

Matt Kuchar, Ben Martin and Brian Camp­bell, the am­a­teur who just fin­ished his col­lege ca­reer at Illi­nois, were at 67. In the group one shot be­hind was Mas­ters cham­pion Jor­dan Spi­eth, a 21-year-old Texan who has been around long enough to know that any­thing around par is con­sid­ered good work at a U.S. Open.

“I think if I did it three more times, I’d be in re­ally good po­si­tion come Sun­day,” Spi­eth said. “No com­plaints there.”

Rory McIl­roy had a rough day. He was frus­trated with the bumpy greens and shot 72.

Sev­eral tees were moved for­ward. Sev­eral pins were in spots where the slopes could be used to get the ball close. Com­plaints — ex­cept for the greens — were at min­i­mum.

“My guess was there would be 20 to 30 guys un­der par af­ter to­day, and by the end there will be barely any,” Ge­off Ogilvy said af­ter his 69. “With a course like this, I would have thought that would be a sen­si­ble strat­egy to keep us all happy on Thurs­day and then grad­u­ally wear us down.”

Woods wasn’t happy, though he man­aged a few laughs.

“The bright side is at least I kicked Rickie’s butt to­day,” he said.

Woods said he was on the right path with his new swing, but it was tak­ing time and he was try­ing his hard­est. That’s the mes­sage he gave at Me­mo­rial af­ter his 85, yet his strug­gles were never more ex­posed than at the tough­est test in golf, a ma­jor he has won three times.

From the side of a hill in deep, yel­low grass, he hit one shot in which the club came out of his hand and landed some 15 feet be­hind him. That would have been an im­age that de­fined this day at Cham­bers Bay — un­til he got to No. 18 and hit a shot with which mil­lions of hack­ers could iden­tify.

Leave it to Woods to steal the show at the U.S. Open, even if he wanted to hide.

Cham­bers Bay showed off some of its nu­ances.

Camilo Vil­le­gas took four shots to get out of a bunker on No. 12 that ru­ined his birdie-birdie start. Jason Day was mo­tor­ing along to­ward the lead­ers un­til a stiff breeze showed up off Puget Sound and he left his tee shot on the par-3 15th hole some 15 yards short of the green, buried in the sand just be­yond a mound of tall fes­cue. Day still man­aged a 68.

“It’s only go­ing to get tougher and tougher as the week goes on and ev­ery­one knows that,” Day said. “It’s all about the at­ti­tude. You have to have a good at­ti­tude in U.S. Opens. It’s easy to play your­self out of the tour­na­ment real quick here.”

The first time Sten­son saw Cham­bers Bay, he walked the course with­out play­ing it. The Swede did just fine with clubs in his hand.

“One day out of four done, and we’re right there with where we want to be,” Sten­son said. “It’s still a long jour­ney un­til Sun­day af­ter­noon.”

John­son lost a chance to win the U.S. Open at Peb­ble Beach five years ago with an 82 in the fi­nal round. He missed out on a play­off at the PGA Cham­pi­onship that same year by ground­ing his club with­out re­al­iz­ing he was in a bunker at Whistling Straits. And his chal­lenge at the Bri­tish Open in 2011 was de­railed by a 2-iron that went out-of-bounds on the 14th hole.

But com­ing off a six-month break to get his life in or­der, John­son is as im­pos­ing as ever. He al­ready has won a World Golf Cham­pi­onship this year. And he likes the look of a big course where he can smash his way around it — and hit­ting it straight al­ways helps.

“I re­ally felt like I swung it well and hit a lot of qual­ity iron shots,” John­son said. “So the con­fi­dence is def­i­nitely there. I feel re­ally good about where I’m at go­ing into to­mor­row.”

AP

Tiger Woods re­acts to his tee shot on the eighth hole dur­ing the first round of the U.S. Open golf tour­na­ment at Cham­bers Bay, Univer­sity Place, Washington on Thurs­day, June 18.

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