FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Mike Weir came within one stroke of matching the best round ever in any of golf’s major championships.
There have been four 63s in the 108 U.S. Opens, the last by Vijay Singh in the second round at Olympia Fields in 2003. Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf both shot 63 in the opening round at Baltusrol in 1980. Those three rounds, like Weir’s, were shot on courses that played to a par of 70.
The best round in relation to par was Johnny Miller’s 8-under 63 in the final round at Oakmont in 1973, which gave him a one-shot victory over John Schlee.
There have been 10 63s in the PGA Championship, seven in the British Open and two in the Masters.
Weir made eight birdies and a double bogey for a 33-31–64 and said 63 wasn’t on his mind.
“It really wasn’t. I didn’t think much about it,” he said. “I was just in one of those days where I was so focused on what I was doing.”
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AMATEUR HOUR: Three of the 14 amateurs in the field bettered or matched par and two of them completed their rounds in the morning when good scores were much tougher to come by.
Drew Weaver, the 2007 British Amateur champion who graduated from Virginia Tech this spring, shot a 1-under 69, one stroke better than Cameron Tringale, who played at Georgia Tech, and Kyle Stanley, who played at Clemson.
Weaver and Tringale both completed their first rounds Friday morning when the course was still drying out from Thursday’s daylong rain, while Stanley played his round under sunny skies.
Ben Martin, who also played at Clemson, was at 72, a shot better than Nick Taylor, a native of Canada who played at the University of Washington.
Rickie Fowler, who just finished his sophomore season at Oklahoma State, was one of the amateurs who made the cut last year at Torrey Pines. He shot an opening 78 at Bethpage.
“It’s definitely a lot easier playing with a caddie in the rain,” he said. “In college golf you have an umbrella, bag and rain gear. It gets tough just doing that let alone playing in the rain, but this course is definitely a million times better than a college golf course.”
David Erdy, the youngest player in the field at 19, qualified as an alternate and was paired with 2007 Masters champion Zack Johnson and Lee Westwood, who finished third in last year’s U.S. Open.
“They were two great guys,” he said after shooting a 78, “I talked to them the whole round. Lee was cracking jokes and Zach was just a great guy to be around.”
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YO, ROCCO: Rocco Mediate became a fan favorite in last year’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines when he lost to Tiger Woods in a 19-hole playoff. He may be on the other side of the country this year, but his popularity was still evident as he shot a first-round 68.
He was asked how many times he heard his name yelled out on Bethpage Black.
“About 4 million,” he said. “Unbelievable out there today. It was great, absolutely fantastic.”
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FILM STUDY: Ian Poulter completed a par round of 70 Friday morning and knew he wouldn’t be back to start his second round until some time Saturday. He was asked what he planned for the rest of the day Friday.
“I’m going to watch ‘Hangover’ at the cinema,” he said, referring to the popular comedy. “I’ve heard it’s very good – and it sums up my last three days.”
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TIGER’S TALE: When Tiger Woods won the 2002 Open at Bethpage Black he led from wire to wire and his worst round was a closing 72 that gave him a 3-under 277 total and a three-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson.
Woods completed an opening-round 74 on Friday that left him tied for 81st.
“I wasn’t playing poorly,” he said. “I was even par with four to go and I was right where I needed to be, and two bad shots and a mud ball later, here we go and I’m at 4 over par.”
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DIFFERENT CONDITIONS: There were 13 rounds below par in the opening round and all but two – Drew Weaver and Graeme McDowell’s 69s – were shot by the second wave of players who were able to play the entire round under sunny skies.
Weaver and McDowell were among those golfers who started their round in drenching rain on Thursday and finished it Friday morning before the sun broke through cloud cover.
Those who finished their first rounds were told they would not be starting their second round until at least 9 a.m. Saturday, meaning another long day without golf.
“I’d like to get straight out there right now,” McDowell said. “The weather is perfect out there.”
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SIM SHOOTING: Michael Sim, the 24-year-old Australian who has won twice on the Nationwide Tour this year and is its leading money-winner with almost $400,000, shot a first-round 71, one of the top scores from the players who started Thursday and finished Friday.
“This is a different stage out here. You just have to stay focused and enjoy the moment. It’s the hardest test in golf,” said Sim, who would earn an in-season promotion to the PGA Tour with another Nationwide victory. “I’m driving the ball well and my distance control has been really good. I don’t think I really have too many weaknesses in my game now.”
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A FOOT SHORT: Sean O’Hair closed his 1-under 69 with a double-bogey 6 on No. 18.
“My goal this week was to not make any double bogeys because you know you’re going to make your share of bogeys,” he said. “I had to take an unplayable lie off my tee shot, but if it had literally gone another foot I would have been in the fairway bunker and would have had a fair chance at a par. So the goal here is to just try to keep it in play and make pars.”
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STILL SEVENTY: Padraig Harrington, last year’s British Open and PGA Championship winner, shot a first-round 76. Harrington hasn’t broken 70 on the PGA Tour since a first-round 69 in the Masters. He missed the cut in the Memorial (75-77) and St. Jude Classic (72-72) the last two weeks.