Monday, November 29, 1999

Players struggle after being seduced by Pebble Beach

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Pebble Beach, like many objects of natural beauty, has a devilish knack of tormenting even its most devoted admirers.It may be one of the most spectacular courses in championship golf and a favorite among the top professionals, but it can also be one of the cruellest, as the world's best players discovered during the first round of the U.S. Open Thursday.Tiger Woods, who won the last U.S. Open held at Pebble Beach a decade ago by a record 15 shots, could not manage a single birdie in his opening round of 74, the first time in seven years he had not made a birdie in a round of any major."I three-putted twice and laid up on a bunker, Woods told reporters "Those are mistakes you just can't afford to make."Phil Mickelson, the U.S. Masters champion closing in on replacing Woods as the new world number one, fared even worse, shooting a 75 that included bogies at the 16th, 17th and 18th.He found the water at 17 and again at 18 when his approach to the green smashed into rocks and richocheted out into the ocean. Like Woods, he said he only had himself to blame."I thought that the golf course was set up perfectly," Mickelson said. "There were some scoring out there if you played well."The course had been set up harder than usual to test the players, partly because of the way Woods ripped up the layout in 2000."This is a completely different design, a complete redo from when we played (in 2000). The holes are much different and the bunkering is much different," Woods said.GENTLE BREEZEThe course is not especially difficult. With the sun shining and a gentle breeze coming off the ocean, Pebble Beach did not so much bear its teeth as smile beguilingly."This was a day for scoring," Ireland's Padraig Harrington said. "The weather was benign. The greens were soft and I was going in the wrong direction."The frustration for most players was in failing to capitalise on the conditions as not one managed to get through their opening round without at least one bogey.Australia's Geoff Ogilvy, U.S. Open champion in 2006, shot a 79 that included a run of seven bogeys in eight holes.New Zealand's Michael Campbell, winner in 2005, carded a 78 and South Africa's Retief Goosen, a recent two-time winner, made 75.Tom Watson, winner of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1982 and given an exemption to play this year, shot a round of 82 but also refused to lay the blame elsewhere."People can make putts on those greens," he said. "I had a lot of unforced errors today, five or six shots that kind of went off the wrong day and I shot 78."(Editing by Alastair Himmer. To query or comment on this story email
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