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107th U.S. Open Championship Preview

107th U.S. Open Championship Preview 13 years 3 weeks ago #56987

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Nick Dougherty Holds U.S. Open Lead; Tiger Woods Lurks 3 Strokes Back
June 14th, 2007

Only two golfers broke par at Oakmont - which played as tough as predicted Thursday.

Englishman Nick Dougherty shot a two-under 68 to take the first-round lead at the U.S. Open. Angel Cabrera of Argentina was one shot back at the historic Pennsylvania country club course, where the scoring average soared over 75. Jose Maria Olazabal and Bubba Watson were another stroke further back at even- par 70 while betting favorite Tiger Woods, whose U.S. Open odds entering the major were 3/1, led a group of 16 players tied for fifth at +1.

“The U.S. Open is brutal, it tests every aspect of your game,” said Dougherty, whose early 68 held up through the afternoon tee times of Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, among others.

Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk, Singh and 51-year-old Fred Funk were among those at 71.

“The golf course is playing hard, and this is with pretty benign conditions and pretty favorable pin positions,” said Woods, who had four bogeys and three birdies. Woods made those comments early in the afternoon, when it looked like Oakmont might still yield some lower scores. The course was softened by rain that fell Wednesday, allowing for slower greens for the first dozen or so groups.

“Oakmont probably will never play easier than we had it in the first nine holes,” said Ogilvy, who won his first major at Winged Foot in 2006.

Dougherty, a 25-year-old from Liverpool, admitted the previous day’s rain helped the early groups. His number was one shot better than the leading 18-hole score last year, when Colin Montgomerie’s 69 was the highest first-round score to lead a U.S. Open in 20 years.

“You can get putts to stop relatively close to the hole,” Dougherty said.

Some weren’t so lucky, even those who played in the more favorable morning conditions.

Adam Scott (76), Henrik Stenson (79), Sergio Garcia (79), Paul Casey (77) and K.J. Choi (77) were among those who couldn’t do enough to avoid the mistakes that can potentially end a player’s U.S. Open on the first day.

Mickelson played with a black brace on his injured left wrist and opened with a four-over 74, a number that looked just good enough to keep him in the mix a year after his 72nd-hole collapse at Winged Foot.

He removed the brace to putt, revealing a bandage underneath. It’s the same injury that forced his withdrawal from the Memorial two weeks ago and caused him to miss a start last week in Memphis.

“I’m not overly disappointed. It could have been a round that got away from me,” Mickelson said.

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107th U.S. Open Championship Preview 13 years 3 weeks ago #56998

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Oakmont chews up U.S. Open field
June 15, 2007

OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) -Tiger Woods was above par, and felt fortunate to be there. Phil Mickelson had a 74, and knew it probably couldn't have been much better with his achy wrist. Only two scores were in the red under optimal scoring conditions at the U.S. Open, and three very long and likely dry days await.

This is Oakmont Country Club, as good as it gets. This is the U.S. Open, where the field often expects the worst and most often gets it.

What everyone was wondering after the opening round Thursday on one of world's toughest courses was how much more grueling it will get when Oakmont's greens fully dry out, the pin placements aren't so generous and the pressure that's always there in the most difficult of the four majors ratchets up even more.

If only leader Nick Dougherty (68) and Angel Cabrera (69) could break par at Oakmont with the greens softer than usual, the temperatures moderate and a cooling breeze blowing through, what will the scores be by Saturday? By Sunday?

``We are in for a long week,'' Vijay Singh said.

For Sergio Garcia (79), Shaun Micheel (78), two-time champion Retief Goosen (76), Masters winner Zach Johnson (76) and frequent contender Colin Montgomerie (76), it's already been a long week. Despite scores so high they would already be out of it in most tournaments, Woods offered some encouragement.

``You know if you shoot 3, 4, 5 over par, you're still in the tournament and you've got to hang in there,'' said Woods, whose 1-over 71 left him three behind Dougherty.

One trend was evident Thursday: getting on the course early was much preferable to later. Only four golfers were below or even par, and all four had early tee times - when Oakmont's wickedly fast greens were drying out from a Wednesday afternoon thunderstorm.

``I think the course is, I hate saying it, easy,'' Dougherty said after needing only 11 putts over the final nine holes. ``Goodness I shouldn't have said that. No, absolutely not. The course is barbaric.''

Cabrera (69) owned the only other score in the 60s, with the long-driving Bubba Watson and Jose Maria Olazabal at even-par 70. Woods, Ben Curtis, returning champion Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk and 51-year-old Fred Funk were among those at 1-over 71.

``Imagine if we don't get any rain and the greens get firmer and firmer by this weekend, it's going to be difficult out there,'' Olazabal said.

Going to get difficult? What is it now? David Toms led at 3 under at one point, only to finish at 72 following bogeys on five of his last six holes.

``Even in a major like Augusta, even other difficult major we play, you probably are going to have one or two shots where you can take off,'' Woods said. ``It's not that hard of a shot. You can close your eyes and probably hit it either in the fairway or on the greens, and it's an easy shot. On this golf course there are none, and no easy birdies.''

No doubt it didn't help that only a dozen or so in the field have tournament experience at Oakmont, which hadn't hosted a U.S. Open since 1994 - the year before Woods began playing in the national championship. Once the leaders experience all of Oakmont's nuances, and the greens that tilt like a miswired pinball machine, maybe they'll be more comfortable.

Or maybe not. Arnold Palmer has played Oakmont for 66 years and still doesn't know all of its ins and outs and peculiarities.

``When he (Woods) and I played here last Monday, 10 over would have won it by five,'' Ogilvy said. ``Right now 10 over is not going to win, if it stays like this.''

One of the big questions before Thursday was how well Mickelson would play with an injured left wrist that didn't allow him to play a full practice round this week. The answer: not all that badly, given his 4-over 74. He parred each of the last eight holes, getting more comfortable once he began taking off his wrist guard while putting.

``I feel OK to hit balls,'' said Mickelson, who lost a one-shot lead on the final hole at Winged Foot last year, allowing Ogilvy to win. ``It's sore and aggravating and it's annoying, but it's not like the pain was as little as five, six days ago.''

Justin Rose, among a group of 16 at 1-over 71, said staying around is the main goal of Day 1.

``I haven't shot myself out of the tournament, which is what Round 1 is all about,'' Rose said.

And can anyone feel comfortable with Woods, winner of four of the last nine majors, hanging so close?

``That's what he does, gets the best score of the day he can, not his best but he's still in the tournament,'' Ogilvy said.
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107th U.S. Open Championship Preview 13 years 3 weeks ago #57010

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107th U.S. Open Second Round News and Notes
June 15th, 2007

Oakmont, PA (Sports Network) - Phil Mickelson finished off a 77, then told everyone what he'd be doing for the next several hours.

"Go watch the carnage on TV," Mickelson said.

Lefty was one of the players swallowed up by Oakmont during an impossibly tough second round at the U.S. Open, where the scoring average soared to 76.933 shots -- almost seven strokes over par.

Mickelson missed his first cut at a major since the 1999 British Open, a string of 30 consecutive starts that ranked as the longest such streak in the world.

The last course to foil him? Carnoustie, also the site of this season's British Open.

"I'm going to have to change things," Mickelson said, referring to his preparation for the upcoming majors.

Friday, he was knocked over the cut line when second-round leader Angel Cabrera made a birdie at his last hole, the par-four ninth. That put Cabrera at even-par and eliminated anyone above 10-over par -- the players not within 10 shots of the lead.

Mickelson wasn't the only top player who missed the cut.

That list also included Justin Leonard, Luke Donald, Trevor Immelman, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Davis Love III, Henrik Stenson, Colin Montgomerie and two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen.

It wasn't a cut the world's top players wanted to miss. Even at 10-over par, anything is possible this weekend at Oakmont.

"The tournament starts on Saturday," Cabrera said. "Everyone who makes the cut has a chance. You just have to see what happens."


- The only other time Cabrera held a lead at a major championship was at the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock, where he finished in 16th place after going 77-75 on the weekend.

- Cabrera has never missed a cut at the U.S. Open in eight starts.

- Bubba Watson is alone in second place at one-over 141. He is the only U.S. player among the top-five.

- Sixty-three players made the cut at 10-over-par 150, the highest cut line at the U.S. Open since it was also 10-over at Bethpage Black in 2002.

- No amateurs made the cut. Mark Harrell came close, but was eliminated at 11- over when Cabrera made his closing bogey.

- Only one player over 45 made the cut: Fred Funk, who celebrated his 51st birthday on Thursday.

- A funny thing happened ... at the 379-yard 11th. K.J. Choi knocked his approach shot to edge of cup, where it hung precariously while David Toms took aim for his second shot. Toms hit the flag stick. Choi's ball stayed out of the cup, but it was an interesting scene. Both players made birdie.

- The 435-yard, par-four 10th ranked as the toughest hole Friday with a scoring average of 4.692 shots.

- The 358-yard, par-four 14th ranked as the easiest with an average of 4.019 strokes.
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107th U.S. Open Championship Preview 13 years 3 weeks ago #57021

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US Open’s Third Round at Oakmont Will Be Even Harder
June 16th, 2007

Oakmont is only going to get more difficult to play. That’s the fear of every golfer who remains in competition for the US Open championship, which heads into its final two rounds Saturday after beating up the players for two days.

Two-time Open champion Tiger Woods said USGA officials are “close” to letting the condition of Oakmont get away from them, as they did in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills in the Hamptons.

“It’s right on the edge, I think,” Woods said. “The first green, thank God I have spikes on, because I think I would have slipped right off the back.”

After 36 holes, Woods is 5-over par and five strokes off the lead. Thirty-five players shot 80 or higher in the second round. Three shot par or better: Paul Casey (66), Stephen Ames (69) and Aaron Baddeley (70).

When Casey sank a 2-foot par putt on the ninth hole Friday at historic Pennsylvania country club to complete a 4-under 66, his fellow competitors and caddies around the ninth green joined the gallery in giving the Englishman a rousing ovation.

It was as much out of disbelief as appreciation.

“They are probably thinking how on earth did I shoot that?” Casey said. “And I’m still a bit stunned at it. … Without a doubt it’s the best round of golf I’ve ever played.”

Casey’s 66 in the second round of the 107th U.S. Open was 11 strokes better than Friday’s average score of nearly 7-over 77, and immediately thrust him into contention.

Casey is in seventh place at 3-over 143, three shots off Angel Cabrera’s lead of even-par 140. Bubba Watson, in just his second major, is one shot back at 1-over 141, and Baddeley, Justin Rose, Ames and Niclas Fasth are two shots back.

Casey recorded one of just two under-par rounds Friday - the other was a 69 by Ames - as Oakmont continued to firm up and lived up to its reputation as the toughest course in America.

Woods, seeking his 13th major, shot a 74. “Given the way I think I hit the ball today I could have shot myself right out of the tournament,” Woods said. “But I stuck with it and gave myself a shot on the weekend. It’s only going to get tougher from here.”

How tough? Only Oakmont holds that answer.

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107th U.S. Open Championship Preview 13 years 3 weeks ago #57048

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US Open Report Round Three
June 16th, 2007

The unforgiving course at Oakmont is letting up a little as three players are now under par for their rounds on Saturday.

Vijay Singh has made the biggest move with birdies at two and five to get to two under for the round and six over for the championship.Joining him in red figures are Wisconsin native Steve Stricker and 1997 US Amateur Public Links champion Tim Clark.Clark has played six holes. Stricker, playing with Singh, is through five holes.

Playing by himself, 33 year old Australian Mathew Goggin finished with a 4-over-par 74 Saturday. Goggin clocked in at two hours, 40 minutes for his round. He began the day in 63rd place, and turned down the chance of using a marker. The next closest group after Goggin was five holes behind.

All the leaders are scheduled to begin play in the afternoon, with leader Angel Cabrera set to tee off at 3:15 p.m. with Bubba Watson.

With no players under par after 36 holes, the USGA chose to water the greens at Oakmont on Friday night and Saturday morning, giving Tiger Woods his wish. Woods called for the greens to be watered after finishing with 6 bogeys and a second round 74 on Friday, telling reporters, “If they don’t water the golf course, it’s going to be a lot more difficult.”

The greens on the second, third, fifth, sixth and 13th - the firmest on the course - were watered again early Saturday morning.

The USGA now feels they will be no firmer at any point in the third round than they were late in the day on Friday.

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107th U.S. Open Championship Preview 13 years 3 weeks ago #57068

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Cabrera tames Tiger, Furyk and Oakmont
June 17, 2007

OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) -The only thing Angel Cabrera couldn't conquer at this U.S. Open was Oakmont.

That was much tougher than Tiger Woods.

Cabrera hit all the right shots at the right time Sunday, none bigger than a booming tee shot down the middle of the 18th fairway that stopped a late slide, allowed him to post a 1-under 69 and forced Woods and Jim Furyk to catch him.

For the second straight major, Woods couldn't buy a birdie.

For the second straight U.S. Open, Furyk couldn't make a par.

Cabrera became the first Argentine in 40 years to win a major, powering his way to a pair of birdies on the back nine at Oakmont that turned into a one-shot victory over two of the best players in the world.

``It is very difficult to describe this moment,'' Cabrera said. ``Probably tomorrow, when I wake up with this trophy beside me, I will realize I won the U.S. Open.''

Cabrera was in the clubhouse, an occasional smile to hide his nerves, when he watched Furyk fall out of a share of the lead on the 17th hole by trying to drive the green 306 yards away. The shot went into deep rough left of the green, his flop shot came up short and his 8-foot par putt swirled around the lip.

The final chance belonged to Woods, who needed a birdie over his final three holes to force a playoff.

He did well to two-putt for par on the 244-yard 16th. His bunker shot on the 17th went over the green and made him again grind out a par, and a tee shot he thought was perfect on the 18th instead straddled the first cut and thick rough right of the fairway. Woods hit wedge that went 30 feet beyond the pin, and his birdie putt was too strong.

Once again, just like at the Masters, Woods was the last player to walk off the 18th green with the trophy belonging to someone else.

``Finishing second is never fun,'' Woods said after closing with a 72. ``You play so hard, and it's just disappointing.''

Furyk became the first player since Arnold Palmer in 1966-67 to be a runner-up in the U.S. Open in consecutive years. A year ago at Winged Foot, he failed to convert a 6-foot par on the final hole that left him one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.

Cabrera not only beat the No. 1 and No. 3 players in the world, his birdie on the final hole Friday caused No. 2 Phil Mickelson to miss the cut in a major for the first time in eight years.

The big-hitting Argentine earned this one.

``I beat everybody here, not only Tiger Woods,'' Cabrera said. ``But I wasn't able to beat the golf course. The golf course beat me.''

Oakmont turned into a survival test with its thick rough and scary greens, although Cabrera handled it better than anyone. Of the eight sub-par rounds all week, he had two of them, and finished at 5-over 285.

And yes, he signed for the right score.

The only other Argentine to win a major was Robert de Vicenzo in the 1967 British Open at Hoylake, where he held off Jack Nicklaus with a daring 3-wood on the final hole. De Vicenzo is equally famous for signing for the wrong score a year later at the Masters, keeping him out of a playoff.

Woods, a runner-up to unheralded Zach Johnson at this year's Masters, played the final 32 holes at Oakmont with only one birdie.

``He put a lot of pressure on Jim and I, and we didn't get it done,'' said Woods, who extended his dubious streak of never winning a major when he wasn't leading going into the final round.

For Woods, this is becoming all too familiar for all the wrong reasons. It was the second straight major he played in the final group, only to see an unproven player take the lead, unable to do anything about it.

He missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 13th, and the only clutch putts he made the rest of the way were for par.

Furyk, who grew up in western Pennsylvania, ran off three straight birdies on the back nine and was tied for the lead when he opted to hit driver on the 17th, where the tees were moved up. He stood by his decision, shocked that the ball carried so far. The rough was only part of the problem; Furyk had no angle to the pin, and his delicate shot came a few yards short of the green.

``Getting that close and not being able to win the golf tournament, yeah, it stings a little,'' said Furyk, who shot 70 for the second straight day. ``But I went down swinging.''

Cabrera might not have been the winner anyone expected, especially at Oakmont, which has produced U.S. Open champions of the highest caliber. But he earned his victory against the best.

He blew a chance to win the esteemed BMW Championship in Europe last month by topping a tee shot on the 15th hole and taking double bogey. As the pressure began to build on the back nine at Oakmont, he again showed signs of a struggle.

First came a three-putt bogey on the 16th from long range. Then he missed the 17th green with a wedge from the fairway to drop into a tie for the lead with Furyk.

``He just kept himself calm,'' caddie Eddie Gardino said. ``He might go and win the British Open, because he knows he can do it.''

Cabrera's victory made it four straight years that an American has failed to win the U.S. Open, extending the longest drought since John McDermott was the first to win his national championship in 1911.

It was the third straight year no one broke par at the U.S. Open, the longest streak in 46 years.

That was no surprise at Oakmont, especially on Sunday. Under steamy sunshine, with final-round pressure on a course reputed to be the toughest in America, every mistake was magnified.

Aaron Baddeley might have made the biggest blunder, and it set the tone for his day. He was in the short cut of rough to the right of the first green when he chipped toward the flag instead of the middle of the green, and it zipped by the hole and off the green. He chipped weakly to 8 feet and ran his bogey putt about 4 feet past. Two putts later, he had a triple bogey. He wound up with an 80.

Six players had at least a share of the lead at some point, but not for long.

Stephen Ames opened with a 12-foot birdie and looked strong until he hooked a tee shot into the ditch on the seventh, tried to play out, finally chopped it to the right rough short of the green and walked off with a triple bogey.

Steve Stricker poured in birdie putts on the fifth and sixth holes to join the lead and closed out his front nine with two good pars for a 34. But he pulled his tee shot into a bunker on No. 10, had to play out sideways, then three-putted for double bogey.

Paul Casey was in such bad shape in a bunker on the par-3 sixth that he played backward, away from the green, chipped short of the green and took triple bogey on his way to a 43 on the front nine.

About the only players who didn't make any ugly errors - or many errors - were the players who ultimately contended for this title.

Cabrera traded birdies and bogeys along the front nine, most notably a birdie on the par-3 eighth hole that played 300 yards with the back tee and back pin. He looked as though he might pull away on the back, using his power for short birdies on the 11th and 15th.

Furyk finally stumbled with careless shots on the 11th and 12th, only to run off three straight birdies to get back in the game.

Woods, the best closer in golf, was a mystery.

He couldn't make a timely putt at the Masters. He couldn't find his swing at Oakmont.
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