Day 1 - 5pm (US)
So much for the 'expert' opinion...Sergio did a Tiger on the 1st, making a nervous double and took a six-over 41 on the front nine. Difference is, he's not made a Tiger comeback and languishes down in 110th place with one hole to play. Looks like my hot tip has crashed and burned early. I'd watched Sergio warming up and he was really creaming his drives but it just goes to show that a shaky start can rock someone who was really ready and confident to go play.
Sergio hasn't always had the best of relationships with US Open crowds but he seems really popular to me, getting loads of shouts of encouragement.. "El Nino!", "Vamos!" and "Beautiful green shirt there buddy!". He looks the part with his special Tour 360 Ltd. shoes and one-off golf bag which I brough you a sneak peak of earlier today even before Sergio had received them!
The power threeball of Garcia, Stewart Cink and Vijay Singh were very impressive to watch off the tee. Garcia hits a lower fade which fizzes off his TaylorMade Tour Burner TP driver to around the 300 yard mark. Vijay Singh crunches his Cleveland HiBore XLS driver about 10 yards further on average with a much higher trajectory and Stewart Cink who is a very big lad is even longer and sneaking past both of them with really high bullets using his Nike Sumo driver. It was impressive stuff but Torrey Pines provides way more of challenge than just hitting the fairway and scoring has been difficult. Right now, only 12 players from the field of 155 are under par and this is bound to thin out even more as the week progresses.
This course is very, very long and extremely tough and believe me, if us mere mortals tried to play it in these conditions and off these tees, scores would be unbelievably high. Why? The fairways are quite narrow, not as narrow as I'd expected but the real danger is the nasty US Open style rough. I've been walking inside the ropes and seeing and feeling the rough up close. It is long but very thick, knarly and tangly and almost unplayable for the average golfer. Some of the iron shots and chips these guys can pull off out of this cabbage seriously defy belief. I'm not kidding! I guess they're used to it, have the extra power and practice a certain strike that's effective. But even if you keep the ball in play, the greens are so slick and contoured, there is no let up and virtually no gimme putts.
Justin was really struggling with his Rife putter and missed a number of tiddlers to send him spiralling down the leaderboard and way behind his impressive playing partners. It was a bit sad to watch and he doesn't quite seem himself. Missing short putts tends to do that to you I find. Els and Ogilvy both look extremely relaxed and in tune with their games and I was seriously impressed by Geoff in particular with his languid yet powerful action. Could he be the next tip to let me down? Watch this space!
Day 1 - 11am (US)
Well here we are live from Torrey Pines! We finally made it through the crowds to the very impressive Media Centre which will be temporary TG headquarters for the next four days! The atmosphere is fantastic, the course looks great and the weather is pretty nice too. Not many places I'd rather be right now and I'm looking forward to getting stocked up with refreshments and getting out on the course for the first time!
The tournament has been under way for four hours already and scores are coming in thick and fast. The dream three-ball are well into their first round and so far its all about Tiger's recovery from a terrible start, hacking out from behind a tree and carding a demoralising double bogey. He's clawed it back with some solid golf and is back to level par after 10. Phil Mickelson started smoothly but messed up three holes on the bounce and dropped to a lowly three over but has just rolled in a beauty on these seriously slick greens to pull a shot back. Adam Scott is crusing along at even and so far, his poorly finger isn't an issue. Beware the injured golfer!
Talking of injuries, its never good to see players withdrawing from major tournaments, but Sean O'Hair's pulled chest muscle has created an amazing opportunity for career amateur Gary Wolstenhome. Golf World interviewed him a few months ago and it was quite sad to read how his golf career and life had stalled. Although its been a frustrating week for Gary as our story below details, its a wonderful opportunity for him to get some recognition and move on to better things. I'm really looking forward to getting out on the course to watch Gary and see how his consistent if rather short hitting game copes with such a monster of a course.
Time to hit the course and watch the big boys finish the back nine before following my sneaky tip for the title Sergio Garcia. Remember, you heard it here first!