Friday, June 17, 2011

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Sure enough, that first step was a doozy.

A major concern among golfers at this year's U.S. Open is the par-3 10th hole, which serves as the first hole for half the field in the opening rounds. It's an awkward 218-yarder over a lake with a horizontal green that leaves little margin for error.

Phil Mickelson, who earlier this week proclaimed that "the average guy can't play that hole," started his round Thursday by putting his tee shot in the water and making double bogey. Steve Stricker was too long, landing in the bunker behind the green on the way to a 4 - the same score carded by playing partners Retief Goosen and David Toms.

"That's one of the few holes out here that I really don't like," said Fred Funk, who leads off with the hole Friday after making par in the first round. "I don't think it matches the rest of the golf course."

The hole produced 19 birdies and 44 bogeys and double-bogeys Thursday. Even one of the nicest birdies needed some extra effort.

Stewart Cink spent a day thinking about leading off on the hole. He played 10 holes instead of his usual nine during Wednesday's practice round just to make sure he had a firm idea how to approach it. Then he reported earlier than usual for his 7:44 a.m. tee time.

"They gave us a little break by moving the tee up, and it was raining when we got to the tee, so you had to do a lot of mathematical calculations," Cink said. "The one thing I did, I made sure I was over there early enough to see the group in front of me hit."

Cink watched Heath Slocum make a 5, through little fault of his own.

"He hit a nice shot and ended up in the water," Cink said, "so I added a couple of yards to what I was playing."

Cink's studiousness paid off. His 5-iron landed about 3 feet from the pin, and he made the putt to start his day in the red.

WHAT ARE THE ODDS? It's the last place anyone would expect it to happen. On the longest hole on Congressional - the 636-yard No. 9 - the second shots hit by Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen ended up touching each other in Thursday's first round at the U.S. Open.

"Yeah, that's something that you probably will never see again," Oosthuizen said. "Graeme laid up with a hybrid, I laid up with a 3-iron, and we got to the balls and they were touching each other, lying next to each other. You know, on the green you see it now and then, but I've never seen it on the fairway."

McDowell moved his ball so that Oosthuizen could play first.

"Thankful he didn't remove a huge piece of turf," McDowell said. "I didn't know what I was going to do to recreate my lie if he had taken a huge divot. He picked it off the turf quite cleanly."

FUNK'S A FAVORITE: The hometown galleries gave Fred Funk all they could. He just didn't have enough length to handle Congressional.

The 55-year-old local native and former golf coach at the University of Maryland opened with a 75 Thursday at the U.S. Open.

"It's a long hombre for me," Funk said. "No. 11, I couldn't reach. I laid up on that one, so that played par 5 for me. I knew that coming in. I went around after I qualified last week and saw all the new tees and went, 'Uh, oh.'"

Funk teared up when he qualified for the tournament at nearby Woodmont Country Club. His goal is to make it to the weekend in what he says will be his last major in his old stomping grounds.

"I'm sure, like the rotation is, I'll be 110 the next time it comes around," he said.

If it doesn't take that long, Funk has an idea of how he might take part when the championship does return to Congressional. His caddie is his 15-year-old son, Taylor, who carries a 1 handicap.

"The next time it comes around," Funk said, "I'll caddie for him."

HAVRET'S HEART: The U.S. Open is the first event for Gregory Havret since the death of his father, who followed the Frenchman during his second-place finish at last year's championship at Pebble Beach.

Havret opened with a 77 Thursday at Congressional.

"It was a pretty tough day," he said. "I putted quite badly all day long."

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