June 20, 2010 by USA Post
Graeme Mcdowell — Reuters — California – Reuters – Graeme McDowell emerged from a field tightly packed to head off club at the beginning of the U.S. Open on Friday, while several players have struggled with demanding course at Pebble Beach.
The Northern Irishman sank two birdie putts in a round of monster 68 that put him three under par, two shots ahead of a pack that included the imperturbable South African Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa Japanese teenager.
Big shock Dustin Johnson, who won the last two regular PGA Tour at Pebble Beach, led the way American Tiger Woods struggled on the same course, he ripped a decade ago when he won the U.S. Open by one record 15 strokes.
It was partly due to the runaway victory Woods in 2000 that the tournament organizers have decided to tighten up the layout for the championship this year by tightening the fairways, the extension and strengthening of crudes bunkers of add to the risks unique natural surrounding beaches and cliffs.
Woods shot a 72 despite struggling off the tee and with his putter. He was well off his best but he was two shots better than his opening round 74 when he failed to make a single birdie.
He completed the seven days off the lead and McDowell, as he has never won a major that far back, the world number one spoke again, his chances of a large 15.
“I’m here in the championship. I just need to make some more birdies, a few more putts on the weekend and I’ll be there, “Woods said.
U.S. Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who could overtake Woods as world number one player in Sunday’s second round began late, but immediately accused the standings with five birdies on the front nine to reach a title.
McDowell, his confidence soaring after having recently won the Wales Open, had six birdies, two putts over 20 feet, but also three bogeys, including one in his last when he led by three to give his best chance to win a grand.
“I’d be lying if I did not think to pick up the trophy on Sunday afternoon,” McDowell said “I think it’s only natural, but I try to be very realistic.”
Els, who won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997, get in the running for a third title with a 68 on a treacherous course that tested every part of his game and mind, but still offered a lot attractive opportunities for birdies.
“It’s almost links golf on steroids, with the rough and the grass around the bunkers,” he said. “I needed a round like today to be back in the tournament.”
Ishikawa provided another demonstration of why he is considered one of the greatest talents of golf with two birdies late in the round of 71 that left him tied for second.
Playing in his first U.S. Open and be followed by a large Japanese media contingent still talk about his 58 years in May, he received the royal seal of approval of his 60th birthday, his playing partner Tom Watson.
“It reminded me of me when I was 18 years,” said Watson, who won eight majors, including the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1982.
The three leaders all fallen overnight in the field after starting the day at two under.
Great Britain’s Paul Casey and Brendon de Jonge Zimbabwe shooting 73 rounds at level by the American Shaun Micheel fell to three over a 76.
The conditions were almost perfect when the groups had an early start with the Greens slowed by watering at night and only a slight breeze blowing from the Pacific Ocean.
But neither player can really enjoy the cut should be as high as seven more after the best professionals have been made to look like weekend hackers.
Casey has lost his place at the top with a triple bogey on the 14th 590-yard, at least three players were forced off cliffs and shooting to play on the beach.
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