Day one at the US Open kicked off with a threesome for the ages.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson began bombing drives on the first hole this morning at 7:33 a.m. at the glorious Olympic Club Lake Course in San Francisco, California. Yet, at days end, it was Woods who shined. Watson shot eight over par while Mickelson finished six over par.
There are a multitude of stories brewing at the US Open this year.
There’s a 14-year-old amateur Andy Zhang, who qualified for this years tournament. Zhang became the youngest competitor in US Open history when he teed off today.
Then there’s Casey Martin, the head golf coach at the University of Oregon and former college teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford, who qualified for this year’s field. Martin played in the last US Open here at the Olympic Club in 1998 and finished 23rd.
Martin has a circulation condition with his right leg as result of a birth defect. He needed to use a cart because he could not walk a full 18 holes as a result of his condition.
Martin took his case to the Supreme Court and won despite testimonies on behalf of the PGA from icons Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
While the rock-star threesome of Masters champions, a history-making 14-year-old and Martin's remarkable qualifying are great stories, Tiger Woods is the top headliner of this years US Open thus far.
Woods comes into the event playing extremely well. He’s certainly one of the favorites to hoist the US Open trophy in triumph this year.
Two weeks ago Woods won Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament. He did so in Tiger-like fashion and tied Nicklaus—doing so on the course Jack built—for second place in career tournament wins at 73.
Today continued the long journey back for Woods as he tries to recapture the dominance he once held over the rest of the tour.
Many believe he cannot resurrect his greatness–some critics even question whether Woods can ever break Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.
I beg to differ on both accounts.
After posting a first-round score of one-under par, Woods has positioned himself to make a run at another Grand Slam as he tries to inch closer to Nicklaus’ 18 majors.
Woods dropped a shot on the fourth hole but quickly got it back on the No. 15, when he tapped in for birdie on the long par-5 to get back to even.
Woods drilled his tee shot into the center of the fairway at the second hole. He followed by hitting a short iron within five feet for birdie but missed his ensuing put and settled for par.
Woods finally made it to red figures when he made consecutive birdies at No. 4 and No. 5 to pull within one shot of the lead with four holes left. At day's end, Woods posted a one-under and was three shots off the lead.
In the press conference Woods suggested he is confident where his game is and feels he can contend. Woods stated, “I played well today. I felt like I had control of my game all day and just stuck to my game plan and executed my game plan.”
Woods continued about being satisfied with today’s round. He said, “[I'm] very pleased. I had a good game plan going in and I executed all the way through and ended up with a score under par. Which was nice.”
Woods is hitting the ball better than ever—an opinion validated by his PGA lead in total driving.
Woods seems to be placing the ball in the fairway with more accuracy than the past. He is also doing a better job of controlling the distance on his shots. The only potential blemish I detect in his game is his putting.
Even though it’s still very early in the tournament, I expect Woods to be in the hunt come Sunday.
The time is coming when Woods will silence those critics who think he can’t summon the greatness he had several years ago when he was at the peak of his powers.
Dexter Rogers is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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