Tuesday, January 24, 2012

OAKMONT, Pa. — Fast, severely sloping greens. A long, mostly treeless course. Conventional wisdom suggested that, with the setup at Oakmont Country Club, this year's U.S. Open might favor someone who usually plays well at Augusta National, home of the Masters. Someone who hits his long irons well and is a good lag putter. Conventional wisdom was right.

After the first round of the 107th U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on Thursday, almost everything about the leaderboard suggested it was being contested in a sleepy little town in Georgia, for a green jacket.

The two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal shot an even-par 70 at Oakmont on Thursday and was two off the lead. Angel Cabrera, whose name always seems to pop up among the early leaders at the Masters, did one better, shooting one-under 69. Four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods came in at one-over 71.

Justin Rose, who led the 2007 and 2004 Masters after 18 and 36 holes, respectively, made his traditional Thursday charge at Oakmont this time instead of Augusta, rallying after an opening double-bogey on the 10th hole to shoot even-par 35 on the back nine.

Three holes later he had it to two-under and was atop the leaderboard with Nick Dougherty. (Alas, back-to-back bogeys on five and six set him back to even par.) Two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson likes the course so much he shot 74 one-handed.

If you imagined Tom Watson for Bubba Watson at even-par 70, you could almost smell the azaleas.

And, as always at Augusta, Colin Montgomerie bowed out early with an opening 76.

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