Glamour pairing leaves something to be desired
SAN FRANCISCO - It was as if the Three Musketeers had forgotten their swords. Or the bacon, lettuce and tomato had fallen out from between the bread. Or the Three Stooges had forgotten their yuk-yuk-yuks.
2012 U.S. Open: Round 1 at Olympic Club
Take a look at these photos from the first round of the 2012 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club.
Three birdies combined? A cumulative 19 over? The world’s highest-ranked player shooting a score that was equaled by an eighth-grader? The defending champ and most lovable player begging off interviews?
Welcome to the world in which Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood walked Thursday afternoon. It was a good walk spoiled at the very first hole – bogeys for McIlroy and Westwood, a double for Donald – and it never got any better.
When The Olympic Club’s pain had been inflicted in full, the ledger read like a trio of qualifiers, not those ranked Nos. 1, 2, and 3 in the world: Westwood managed a 73, but McIlroy shot 77 and Donald 79.
Heck, at least each beat Dennis Miller, the million-to-one club pro.
How bad was it? Perhaps the only ovation the trio earned came at the par-3 13th hole, where McIlroy gave Westwood a round of applause for a brilliant, skyscraper lob from inside the hazard line to the left of the green. It enabled Westwood to save par, and if you’re thinking such a save is no big deal to these skillsman, think again.
On this day, a par-save was about the only thing that this group could cheer.
How bad was it? Had they been allowed to play a best-ball, the trio would have shot only 2 under – and sat two off of Michael Thompson’s lead.
How bad was it? McIlroy, who normally lights up a gathering of media members and is an accomplished member of the Twitter world, refused to chat. He rejected overtures from several directions, his title defense coming to a crashing halt, though later he offered a few comments.
“It's just so tough here if you put yourself out of position at all. It's so tough to make your pars from there,” he said. “When you’re trying to play catch-up on this golf course, it’s very hard.”
Stunning, McIlroy’s play and so, too, Donald, though the world’s No. 1 also faced the music. Though he didn’t make a birdie, Donald showed great dignity, even if he didn’t have many answers.
“The U.S. Open margins are that much smaller,” Donald said. He explained that if you are going to miss greens in this championship, you have to rely on your ability to get it up-and-down, “and I didn’t make putts; my putter went cold.”
The first hole was bad enough, with the trio already a combined 4 over, but no hole showed their ineptitude quite like the par-4 10th. Donald drove it in the middle of the fairway at the 424-yarder and had approximately 120 to the hole. Westwood and McIlroy had less than 110 from the first cut on the right side of the fairway. You’d have bet your weekly paycheck that there might be two birdies - at least one, for sure - but no. Donald missed, short-siding himself to the right, made bogey, and Westwood and McIlroy needed to two-putt from 35-40 feet to make pars.
For the day, Westwood made two birdies – at Nos. 7 and 17; McIlroy only connected at the par-3 13th and Donald? Nada. Zip. Zilch. A big, fat doughnut.
“The top three in the world combine for three bogeys? That shows you how tough it is,” Donald said.
Study their stats and the scores are no surprise. Donald, one of the game’s greatest ball-strikers, hit six fairways and nine greens. Pretty dismal? Well, guess what? Those are the numbers put up by Westwood, while McIlroy managed to hit seven fairways but only six greens.
Ah, yes, we’re not at Congressional anymore, Toto, because whereas McIlroy blitzed that course a year ago to the tune of 16 under, what took place high above the city of San Francisco was a series of shots that left observers stunned. Adding even more frustration to the matter is this: McIlroy shot 77-76 on the weekend at Augusta National to ruin any chance he had for a green jacket, and Donald in that major shot himself out of it with a Thursday 75.
Now, in the season’s second major, they are out of it, their biggest challenge to possibly make it into the weekend. It was not quite that bad for Westwood, not after he gutted it out by playing his final 12 holes in 1 under. It at least gave Westwood a sliver of hope, but for his playing competitors and compatriots, no such luck.
They couldn’t even lift one another’s spirits.
“There was a little bit of chatter,” Donald said, “but not too much.”
For good reason, too.