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Thompson’s game seems to work on this quirky, tree-lined course built on the side of a giant dune that separates the Pacific Ocean from Lake Merced.
He was runner-up in the 2007 U.S. Amateur at Olympic Club and couldn’t wait to get back.
After a roller coaster of a front nine that featured consecutive bogeys and holing a bunker shot for birdie on the downhill par-3 third hole, Thompson hit his stride on the back nine, even if hardly anyone was watching.
He made five consecutive 3s — three of them birdies — and closed his dream round with a 10-foot birdie putt on the short, tough 18th for the lead. Thompson took only 22 putts.
"On the back side, the putter ... seems like every putt went in the hole," said Thompson, a 27-year-old playing his first U.S. Open as a pro. "Got a little nervous there once all those cameras showed up. It’s always a little bit of an adjustment. In that sense, I kind of wish I was Phil or Tiger, because you get the cameras from the beginning."
There weren’t enough cameras or fans to find Mickelson’s opening tee shot, but it was easy to find Woods.
He missed only four fairways — three of them that ran off the severe slopes and into the first cut, the other into a bunker on the 256-yard seventh hole, which is where he was aiming. The only glitch was failing to get the ball closer to the hole with short irons, including the 14th when it landed on the back of the green and bounced off the base of the grandstand.
That led to one of his two bogeys, the other at No. 6 with a poor bunker shot. The only surprise was a good one — the 35-foot birdie putt on the fifth that he struck too hard and worried it might lead to a three-putt until the hole got in the way.
"Five was a fluke," Woods said. "That putt was off the green."
Olympic wasn’t that simple for most everyone else.
Watson was asked about his strategy of hitting his pink-painted driver. "I shot 8 over, so not very good," he said. The next question was how he played out of the rough with short irons in his hand. "I shot 8 over, so not very good," he said.
"You could answer these yourself," he said.
A marine layer in the morning allowed for cool, overcast conditions that eventually gave way to sunshine. That didn’t help. Steve Marino opened with an 84. Zach Johnson didn’t feel as though he played all that badly until he signed for a 77. Padraig Harrington thought the course was fair, and allowed for good scores. But he had two four-putts and a three-putt that ruined a reasonable day and gave him a 74.
"It just goes to show that firm greens scare the life out of professional golfers," Harrington said.
Mickelson was looking forward to playing with Woods — the last time they were together, Lefty closed with a 64 and buried him at Pebble Beach in February — but he could not have envisioned a worse start. The hook was bad enough. But as Mickelson approached the gallery and looked for a crowd surrounding his ball, his eyes widened when a marshal told him, "No one heard it come down."
Five minutes later, he was on his way back to the tee.
Mickelson made an unlikely bogey on the hole, added two more bogeys and was fighting the rest of the day. A three-putt late in the round cost him dearly, and now Mickelson can only hope he’s around for the weekend.
"I can’t really think about the lead or anything," said Mickelson, who was 10 shots behind. "I’ve just got to make the cut right now, and to do that I’ve got to shoot something under par."
Woods is coming off his second win of the year at Memorial, and while that made him the favorite at the U.S. Open, recent history left some questions.Next Page >
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