Colin Montgomerie was the only golfer to break par in the first round of the US Open at Winged Foot CC in Mamaroneck NY.
The 42-year-old Scot birdied three of the last 10 holes to complete a one-under-par 69 on a difficult, blustery day at Winged Foot Golf Club where the average score was 75.98.
Mickelson, bidding for a third consecutive major title, had to settle for a five-way share of second place after scrambling to a 70 that included two birdies and two bogeys.
Level with the American left-hander were compatriots Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Britain’s David Howell, who got to four under with four holes to play before slipping back.
Several of the game’s biggest names faltered in the testing conditions, among them world number one Tiger Woods who battled to a 76.
Making his tournament return after a nine-week break, following the death of his father, Woods struggled with his putting and accuracy off the tee, setting the tone for his day by bogeying the first three holes.
Twenty-two players carded 80 or worse and the first-round scoring average was the highest at a U.S. Open since the 77.8 at Shinnecock Hills in 1986.
“This course is about finding the greens in regulation, and I’ve always been pretty good at that,” a smiling Montgomerie told reporters after capping his round with a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-four 17th.
“I think the expectation of me in the ’90s to win this thing was very high. I gave it a go a couple times and got quite close.”
Long regarded as one of the best players without a major victory, Montgomerie finished third on his U.S. Open debut in 1992 and was runner-up in 1994 and 1997.
“The last few years I haven’t contended, and it does make a difference where you are more relaxed,” he added. “I can go out and sort of free wheel, if you like.”
I wish Colin well this weekend. In actuality, I wouldn’t mind seeing him win. It would be a long overdue major triumph for Colin. He also lost the 1995 PGA Championship in a playoff to Steve Elkington.
A low score of 69 testifies to how tough Winged Foot is playing. At the US Open in 1974 the first round leader Gary Player shot 70 at this course to lead after one round. 287 or Seven over was the winning score for the week. Hale Irwin winning the first of his three Open titles. Dick Schaap chronicled all of this in a book titled ‘Massacre at Winged Foot‘.
Could we be in for another massacre? I think we are. US Open scoring is lowest on Thursday and Friday. Just look how two-time Open champ Retief Goosen blew up on Sunday at last year’s Open at Pinehurst. He shot an 81. Jason Gore another leader that day shot 84. Johnny Miller’s 63 at Oakmont in 1973 is a rarity on US Open Sunday. The best golfers in the world could be in for a rough weekend.
Not that this is bad. It’s very different than the usual birdie tournaments seen on the PGA tour from week to week. Instead be prepared for a survival test. If history is any guide, it will bring one of the best golfers in the world to the top at the close of finish.
Note- I wasn’t surprised by Tiger’s slow start. Too much has happened in his life of late and a two-month layoff had to leave him rusty for sure.
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