Wow. Talk about luck of the draw. A bunch of guys played their first round at the US Open in mostly miserable conditions between yesterday and this morning--wet, soggy and unpredictable fairways and rough, and greens that were not rolling out as much as normal. Par would have been a great score.
Then the remaining guys tee it off this morning and play much of their first round in relatively ideal conditions---fairways and rough drier, greens still soft and absolutely receptive (heck, people are spinning he back back out of the rough! Normally at a US OPen you can barely spin the ball of the fairways on cement-like greens) and rolling beautifully. Moreover, the tough holes were set up shorter to keep them being impossible in yesterday's weather---in today's weather they are playing as birdie holes. The guys are throwing darts out there apparently---in the elite golfer set the scores are lower by 3-4 shots today.
Worse still for Tiger and others who played first, the 'later' groups of guys get to play a bulk of their second round today too, under ideal scoring conditions. Tomorrow, the weather is supposed to be bad again (and the 'early' guys will have to play round 2 and bulk of round 3 then) so it may be that the early group gets screwed twice. Even if the weather holds up fine tomorrow, it will still be tough because the greens will have dried out much more by tomorrow and they can't just shoot at the pins like the guys are this afternoon today. Scoring will be difficult no matter how you cut it.
Luck of the draw is not unheard of in golf tournaments but this time the circumstances seem to have skewed the fairness more acutely.
All that having been said, Tiger probably has only himself to blame if he's too far behind after today---he was at level par after 14 holes (he played the second half of his round in the more benign conditions of this morning), but dropped 4 strokes over the last 4 holes. Very uncharacteristic of him and it may have lost him a chance at the tournament. If he finished around par he would have been maybe 4-5 shots behind the leaders. Doable, for him --- he could have pulled close by the final round. Now he may be 7-10 shots behind a number of people before he even starts his second round and that is too much to make up. USOpens are not set up for scoring, as we will see---this scoring burst of today is an anomalous result of a perfect storm, if you will, of events. To make up ten shots, you normally need a lot of people to falter pretty badly. But that can happen at US Opens too, I guess.
As of now, it ain't looking good for Ol' Eldrick. The toughest test in golf just got much tougher.
But no one grinds like he does and if anyone can still think of winning from this position, he can. Let's see if he can claw his way back into this tournament over the next couple of days.
Friday, June 19, 2009