Round 1, Take 2: Tiger slides, and as sun shines, Weir runs out to lead US Open at Bethpage

By Tim Reynolds, AP
Friday, June 19, 2009

Tiger slides, Weir off to solid start at US Open

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — When the sun finally came out Friday afternoon, Bethpage Black was there for the taking. Mike Weir was among those taking advantage. Sailing along through 14 holes and briefly flirting with a 63, the best round in U.S. Open history, Weir missed the green and three-putted the par-4 15th for a double bogey. Still, it left him alone in front at 4 under and eight shots ahead of Tiger Woods, who struggled late in his morning round and shot 74.

There’s five courses at Bethpage State Park, with only the Black in use this week.

It only seemed like the morning and afternoon groupings were playing different tracks.

Temperatures went up, the soggy course got a bit drier and scores in the afternoon were far better than in the morning. David Duval joined Weir as one who enjoyed the better conditions, shooting 67 to match his best U.S. Open round ever.

Gray, dreary clouds welcomed those who returned to the rain-delayed tournament in the morning, which seemed to fit Woods’ mood.

The world’s No. 1 player and defending Open champion gave back four shots over his final four holes to finish his opening round at 4-over 74. He was five shots out of the clubhouse lead after the morning groups finished, and slid further as the day went along.

“I was even par with four to go,” Woods said. “I mean, it’s not like I was hitting it all over the place. I was hitting a lot of good shots. Unfortunately, I just didn’t finish off the round the way I needed to.”

So unlike what happened on his last trip to Bethpage in 2002, this U.S. Open won’t be a wire-to-wire victory for Woods.

Minutes after Woods finished, Phil Mickelson — a favorite of the Bethpage gallery, especially after the news that his wife, Amy, is about to begin treatment for breast cancer — began on the 10th tee.

Mickelson’s quest opened with a drive well off the fairway, and drew an ovation anyway.

Graeme McDowell and amateur Drew Weaver, the former Virginia Tech player, each posted 1-under 69s during the morning to share the very early clubhouse lead. Weaver isn’t turning pro because he’d still like to play in the Walker Cup, but this U.S. Open is already his third major, after playing the British Open in 2007 and the Masters in 2008.

“I’m very fortunate in that aspect,” Weaver said. “I’ve gotten a good amount of experience and although I haven’t really made a cut, I feel like I’ve played a lot of good rounds. Everything’s coming together and I’m off to a good start.”

Another amateur, Cameron Tringale, finished the first round at even par.

“This is one of the better group of amateurs that’s come out of college,” Weaver said. “I think it bodes well for the Walker Cup. I think we’ll have a strong team. Guys are just getting better and taking advantage of all the resources.”

It wasn’t a good day to be a reigning major champion: Playing alongside Woods, Masters champ Angel Cabrera finished 4 over, and that was still two shots better than British Open and PGA Championship winner Padraig Harrington.

Woods’ side of the field will not start its second round until Saturday, when more rain is expected to pound the waterlogged course. The U.S. Open hasn’t had a Monday finish without a playoff since 1983, but any significant interruption in play over the coming days would likely ensure that no champion will be crowned before then.

The USGA, in fact, is already bracing for a Monday finish. And Tuesday has been discussed.

“That’s possible,” USGA executive director David Fay said.

There’s one advantage to extra rain, Woods said. It will keep mud off the balls, and since the USGA positively forbids the “lift, clean and place” policy seen often used on the PGA Tour, mud will be an issue as the course gets tackier and drier.

“It’s only going to get worse, unless we get more rain,” said Woods, who lauded Bethpage’s condition for Friday’s play and headed back to the driving range after finishing his round. “If it dries out a little more, this is going to get interesting.”

Plans called for the first round to be completed late Friday afternoon, with the second round starting around 4:30 p.m. and continuing until dark. Ideally, the second round would be finished to establish the cut by day’s end Saturday, although the forecast seems to suggest that’s doubtful.

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