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Fri, May 24

First round at the U.S. Open full of surprises


(AP) – Now the real U.S.

Open can begin.

Thursday was the day for surprises: The 50-year-old sharing the lead with the guy who couldn't even break par in a practice round at Shinnecock Hills.

Not far behind, a mini-tour hanger-on who almost turned in his clubs a couple of weeks ago – and the feared ocean wind that wasn't.

Jay Haas, Shigeki Maruyama and David Roesch had the spotlight in the opening round, but all the elements were in place for this tournament to take a more conventional course.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson was right there.

So were Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, both positioned to knock Tiger Woods out of the top spot in the world rankings.

And it's never wise to count out Woods, determined to break an 0-for-7 slump in the majors.

"There's an awful long way to go," Woods said.

Mickelson was 2 under with three holes to play when fog engulfed the links-style course, forcing a suspension of play until this morning.

"Not too bad," Mickelson said, hustling off to sign a few autographs, grab a quick dinner and turn in early.

Singh also got stopped by the weather, walking off with four holes left and his score at 2 under.

Els, a two-time Open champion, got off to a miserable start – 3 over through three holes, including a double-bogey at No.

11 (his second hole).

But he recovered with some terrific wedge play and a few timely putts and gladly signed for an even-par 70.

"After my start, I played the golf course in 3-under par," Els said.

"I felt I played well."

Woods needed to save par five times from bunkers – and once for his only birdie – in a pedestrian round of 72.

It was the fourth straight time he failed to shoot par or better in the first round of a major.

And he's never won any tournament when starting out over par.

If that doesn't change, his winless streak in the majors will go to eight after a 7-of-11 run from 1999-02.

"It's never going to stay that way," Woods said.

"I had a great stretch where I played fantastic golf."

No one who got through 18 holes Thursday played better than Haas and Maruyama.

Two weeks removed a runner-up finish in the Senior PGA Championship, Haas took advantage of a surprisingly calm day.

With birdies at both par 3s on the back nine, he shot a 66 that left him tied for the clubhouse lead with Maruyama.

"I'm hitting the ball longer than I ever have.

I feel more confident with my putting, my chipping," Haas said.

"But until I win, I won't say it's the best I've played."

Haas, whose last victory came in 1993, went back on the course to watch his 22-year-old son, Bill, an amateur qualifier.

The youngster was no match for the old man – 3 over with a hole left.

"Most kids can beat their dads," Bill said, "but I can't."

Maruyama put together a great round before a large crowd – he played with Woods and Chad Campbell.

The Japanese star isn't a fan of the Open, a bit intimidated by the rock-hard greens and high rough.

"I just tried to get even par today," Maruyama said.

"Through the practice round, I never hit under par here.

I wasn't very aggressive."

Playing for the first time in seven months, the world's former No.

1 was tied for the lead at one point – the first hole – but eventually unraveled off the tee.

He finished with an 83, matching his worst score as a professional.

Duval wasn't the least bit concerned about his showing.

He wasn't tournament tested and only wanted to have some fun.

"I would call it an enormous victory for me today," Duval said.

"I can't wait for tomorrow."


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