With a combined 19 majors, Woods, Harrington and Cabrera don’t play the par

By Doug Ferguson, AP
Friday, June 19, 2009

Major champions combined for a major bust

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — One by one, they climbed the steep hill toward the 18th green at Bethpage Black in what resembled a parade of major champions Friday in the U.S. Open.

U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods arrived from a bunker, the third time in four holes he failed to find the fairway. Masters champion Angel Cabrera needed a search party to find his ball along the weeds right of the fairway. British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington looked beat after a long two days of too many bogeys.

They have combined to win 19 majors.

They were a combined 14 over par, the only numbers that really mattered in the first round.

“The course is playing tough, obviously,” Woods said after a 74, his highest opening round in a major in three years.

Harrington has struggled all year and had missed three straight cuts going into the U.S. Open, and the problem on rain-soaked Bethpage Black was missing the fairway. He didn’t make a birdie until the 13th hole, and a birdie on the last hole left him with a 76.

Cabrera was smashing his driver, at times 20 yards past Woods, but he missed too many short putts for birdies that could have helped balance the inevitable bogey. He wound up with a 74.

Woods delivered the star power, and the shocker.

He returned from the rain delay on Thursday by missing a 10-foot par putt to go 2 over, and it was a battle to get back to even par. He finally got there with a towering 8-iron to 6 feet behind the hole at the par-3 14th for a birdie.

The sun began to fight through the clouds. The gallery came to life, screaming cheers at Woods and the other two major champions as they walked down the hill at the 14th, crossed the street and headed to the 15th tee to finish off the round.

But they didn’t finish it in style, particularly Woods.

“I was even par with four to go, and I was right there, where I needed to be,” Woods said. “Two bad shots and a mud ball later, here we go, and I’m at 4 over par.”

It was his worst start at a major since the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, when he played for the first time in two months because of his father’s death. Woods missed the cut that year, his only weekend off at a major as a pro.

He is danger of leaving early again.

The top 60 players and anyone within 10 shots of the lead make the cut at the U.S. Open. Woods already was 10 shots behind former Masters champion Mike Weir, who opened with a 64 in more benign conditions.

Woods left Bethpage Black uncertain when he would return for the second round on Saturday or what kind of weather he would face. A 74 didn’t appear that terrible when he finished, only when the afternoon wave attacked soft greens and made birdies with regularity.

And to think he was one shot out of the lead when he teed off on the 15th, a hole he played at 1 under for the week in 2002.

“I think when he got it back to even par he maybe thought the job was done,” Harrington said. “And that’ll come back to bite you.”

His tee shot was well right on the 15th, but a decent enough lie in the rough for Woods to go for the 40-foot elevated green. The shot came up a yard short, plugged into the thick grass, allowing for a free drop. Woods had an awkward stance, popped the chip up, but knew he was in trouble when the ball began to trickle, then gather steam.

It wound up 70 feet away, and he three-putted for double bogey.

Then came a splotch of mud on his ball after a pure drive on the 16th. He tried to play a draw to counter the effects of the mud, only for it to squirt right and leave him a downhill chip. Another bogey.

Then came the 18th, when his fairway bunker shot was a few yards away from being perfect. It found the rough, instead, and Woods chipped to 8 feet and missed another par putt.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t finish off the round the way I needed to,” Woods said.

Neither did Cabrera, the only man who can capture the Grand Slam this year. He also was trying to get back to even par, but those hopes vanished when he tried to reach the 605-yard 13th hole in two and hit 3-wood into the trees on his way to a bogey.

Asked if he was surprised by Woods’ poor finish, Cabrera shook his head.

“He’s human,” he said.

The major champions all looked that way in the first round.

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