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First Round Seems About as Clear as Jay

Haas, enjoying a senior moment, shares lead with Maruyama before fog stops play at the U.S. Open. Mickelson, Singh are in thick of it.

June 18, 2004|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Opening day at the 104th United States Open played more like a mad scramble.

Dawn broke at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club with pea soup fog, which gave way to benign conditions, which gave way to a severe afternoon storm, a 2-hour and 12-minute delay, resumption of play and then, ta-da, more soup.

Play was suspended for good at 7:40 p.m. because of fog, with 19 groups still on the course and a cloudy leaderboard that might best be described as cumulus nuttiness.

First-round play will be completed this morning.

Jay Haas, who turned 50 last December but somehow hits the ball farther now than he did when he was 30, shot four-under 66 Thursday -- no, this was not Day 1 of the U.S. Senior Open.

Haas shares the lead with Japan's Shigeki Maruyama. Both men played in the early morning, under ideal course conditions, and their scores were comfortably filed when thunder rolls interrupted play at 4:43.

Maruyama played beautiful golf. His primary concern was almost missing his morning tee time because of an intestinal ailment.

"Big problem," Maruyama explained.

Spain's Angel Cabrera was four under through 12 holes when play was halted.

Eight players, some of whom were having their names announced at a major event for the first time, were bunched at two under.

Among the notables lurking were Masters champion Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh.

Mickelson had played bogey-free through 15 holes and Singh had completed 14 when Shinnecock turned into Foggy Bog.

Jay Haas?

No one expects his game to hold up over 72 holes, but his first-day showing could hardly be called a fluke.

He finished tied for fourth here in 1995, the last time the Open was played at Shinnecock and, despite his advancing age, is playing some of the best golf of his career.

Haas' anticipated transition to the Champions Tour has been delayed by his having posted five top-10 finishes on the regular PGA Tour this year.

"I'm hitting the ball farther than I ever have," he said.

He has never won a major, though, and won't allow himself to look ahead.

"Until I win, I won't say it's the best I've played," he said.

The heavy favorites, obviously, were pacing themselves.

Ernie Els, a three-time major winner, finished at even-par 70. Tiger Woods shot two-over 72 and announced afterward that everything was under control.

"I know how to play U.S. Opens," Woods, a two-time Open winner, said, adding that patience was the key.

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

True enough, although there are ominous signs that Woods might go winless in his eighth consecutive major.

He is still having trouble off the tee, hitting only five of 14 fairways.

Also, Woods has never won a PGA Tour event in which he has failed to shoot par or better in the opening round.

Thursday's "false front" leader board included a couple of "Tin Cup" stories in David Roesch and Kris Cox, down-on-their-luck mini-tour hackers who, for one day at least, had Woods and Els looking up at them.

These are dreams that only the U.S. Open makes possible.

Roesch and Cox, each 30, shot two-under 68s on one of golf's biggest stages.

Roesch has failed five times to qualify for the PGA Tour and has earned $4,049 in 10 events this year on the Hooters Tour.

He earned a spot in this year's Open by winning a 36-hole sectional qualifier at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, a stunning achievement for a guy who was ready to quit golf and get a real job.

Roesch said he cried buckets on his way to Shinnecock and confessed that his hands were trembling on the first tee. Yet, he split the fairway with his opening drive and embarked on the round of his life.

"This is about as high as it gets," he said after a round in which he hit 10 of 14 fairways and shot three-under 32 on the back nine.

It wasn't all champagne chip shots.

Roesch said he was treated like a scrub by a USGA official who warned him about slow play on the par-four fourth hole.

Do they treat Tiger and Phil like this?

Roesch was stunned when he arrived at the No. 5 tee box and had to wait five minutes for the fairway to clear

"I'm a no-name here, I'm trying to do well and here comes this guy and tells me I've got a bad time," Roesch said. "We get to the next tee and stand there. You tell me what's going on."

Cox qualified for his first U.S. Open by advancing through sectionals at Canoe Brook Country Club in New Jersey.

Since turning pro in 1996, he has played in Canada, South America and just about every mini-tour the United States has to offer.

"It's not very glamorous," he said of the lifestyle. "Your hotels are not that special, always sharing a room. Then again, it's a choice we make."

Cox hit only five of 14 fairways but scrambled his way to a 68.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Leaderboard

First-round scores for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. 57 players did not finish the round. Par: 70 (35-35)

*--* Player Thru 1st To Par Jay Haas F 66 -4 Shigeki Maruyama F 66 -4 Angel Cabrera 12 -4 Kris Cox F 68 -2 Jeff Maggert F 68 -2 David Roesch F 68 -2 Ben Curtis F 68 -2 Skip Kendall F 68 -2 Kevin Stadler F 68 -2 Phil Mickelson 15 -2 Vijay Singh 14 -2 OTHERS Mike Weir F 69 -1 Corey Pavin 13 -1 Ernie Els F 70 E Retief Goosen 13 E Lee Janzen F 71 +1 Sergio Garcia F 72 +2 Tiger Woods F 72 +2 Jim Furyk F 72 +2 David Toms 17 +2 Fred Couples 13 +5 Davis Love III F 76 +6 David Duval F 83 +13

*--*

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