Three Up, Three Down: No-names, big names survive
SAN DIEGO -- Tony Romo just might have a smile on his face right now.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open on three occasions but never reached the field. On Friday, he did participate in the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge, competing here at Torrey Pines' South Course from the back tees and posting a respectable 84.
For more players who were down -- and yes, some who were up, too -- let's look at Three Up, Three Down.
OK, so not every off-the-radar player from off the beaten path is on top of the leaderboard; it just seems like it. Unless you're more than a casual golf fan, chances are you'd never heard of Kevin Streelman before Thursday's opening round. His previous biggest claim to fame as a professional came right here at Torrey Pines, as he opened with rounds of 67 and 69 at the Buick Invitational in January, earning a third-round tee time with eventual champ Tiger Woods before finishing in a share of 29th place. In Round 1 of the Open, he carded six birdies for a 3-under 68 to grab a share of the lead with ...
Justin Hicks. Now, even if some have heard of Streelman before, I can't imagine many people recognizing Hicks, a career mini-tour player who is ranked No. 722 in the world. After starting on the back nine and failing to card a par (six birdies, three bogeys), he played the final nine in even par to remain atop the leaderboard. Perhaps the only person not surprised to see him there was Hicks himself. "I thought it was a pretty good round," he said. "Certainly, I'm not shocked, but a little bit surprised at the thought of it, at the top of the leaderboard."
You say favorites Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson played the South Course in a pedestrian 1-over-par combined. I say they played as badly as possible and still find themselves well in the thick of things with 54 holes to play. Mickelson, who shot 71, recovered from an early string of three consecutive bogeys, playing his final six holes in 3-under. Meanwhile, Woods carded a pair of double-bogeys in the same round for the first time since this event in 2006, but he still was pleased with his position.
"As of right now what, I'm four back?" Woods said. "To make two double-bogeys and a three-putt and only be four back, that's a great position to be in because I know I can clean that up tomorrow."
||Of the 11 players who broke par in the opening round -- four more than did so through all four rounds last year at Oakmont -- three were Aussies: Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby and Ogilvy. The latter is the 2006 champion, though more blame is given to Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie and Jim Furyk than credit is doled out to Ogilvy. This course is suited for his skill set, and after a 2-under 69, he's right where he needs to be.|
The defending champ looked more like a defending chump Thursday. The burly Argentine gave up cigarettes late last year, and apparently his game isn't smokin' anymore, either. He shot an 8-over 79 in the opening round, but here's the rub: It actually could have been worse. Cabrera closed with back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18 to keep from posting a score in the 80s.|
Recent Major Champs
Masters champ Trevor Immelman looked as though he finally was getting his act back together last week in Memphis. After two months of middling play, he reached a playoff at TPC Southwind, but he didn't feed off that momentum Thursday, recording only two birdies in a round of 75.|
Meanwhile, reigning British Open champ Padraig Harrington fared three shots worse, but at least he had plenty of pretty colors on the scorecard. The affable Irishman carded four birdies, five bogeys and three double-bogeys against only six total pars.
||Another player who should have been feelin' some good vibrations coming to California was Garcia, the recent Players champ who missed out on that playoff in Memphis on Sunday by one stroke. Sergio got off to a rough start in Round 1, making three bogeys and two doubles in his first seven holes. It wasn't all bad news, though. He did manage to right the ship afterward, playing his final 11 holes in 1-under-par.|
Jason Sobel covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
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