Eventful day at Pebble as conditions were firm and very fast and scoring wasn’t exactly easy.
Lets start with the headliners…Tiger struck the ball beautifully today but failed to capitalize on his scoring opportunities thanks to a balky putter and some uncharacteristic miscues with the wedges. As for Phil? It was classic Lefty with a bunch of stupid mistakes and loose play that doesn’t exactly bode well for the coming days. Still, sitting at +3 and +4 respectively, they’re not out of it by a longshot.
Who was impressive today? Three guys stood out…Brandon de Jonge, Shaun Micheel and Ryo Ishikawa. de Jonge and Micheel sit atop the leaderboard after the first round along with the steady Paul Casey and were the sources of two of the sparse highlights. On 14, de Jonge holed out from the fairway with a sick spinner and Micheel had a couple of excellent wedges after playing a fantastically sound strategic game.
Ryo is one of the most impressive young players in a studded crop, standing out with Rickie Fowler, AK and Rory as the kids with the serious game to capture the serious hardware, and I have a feeling this might just be his “hello world” weekend. Just spectacular ballstriking all afternoon long from the 18 year old kid who carries a deuce in the era of hybrids and jacked up fairway woods and just has this beautiful motion through the hitting area. It’s easy to dismiss this kid who’s dominated in Japan, but the minute you watch him strike his irons, you realize this kid has some SERIOUS game, regardless if he looks like Hello Kitty out there.
Man, Pebble is playing just awesome this week. The weather is beautiful and the conditions are making it feel like British Open that spent the weekend at a winery sipping Shiraz while eating goat cheese with dried apricots. You have to take into account the conditions when looking at the guys who should make a run at this thing…and all signs point to the low ball, controlled strikers who plot their way around the course and hit their yardages everytime.
Tiger is hitting the ball too well not to be a factor, especially since he can hit his irons off the tees and find the short stuff. I’m feeling Ryo, Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter, and yet, on the other hand, I fully expect the stratego’s to march up the board (ZJ, Furyk and Justin Leonard) as well as their respective styles translate beautifully to this kind of setup. Ernie is looking good and yes, Sergio Garcia might have himself a nice weekend too after a wonderful day with his irons that leaves him a mere four shots off the lead and maybe we could even see a vintage showing from Vijay who hit the ball well (yet sits at +3).
As for my man Phil? Doesn’t look good, sad to say. It was a rough day for no. 2 both physically and mentally and even though six strokes back with three days to go isn’t insurmountable, it’d take a complete 180 with his game and mindset to put him in position to win his first US Open.
Tomorrow should be an exciting day as the players know what to expect. We saw some US Open’d moments from shanky John Rollins and amateur Morgan Hoffman, who had a spectacular round going until his 9 at 18, and the course isn’t easy so trainwrecks aren’t out of the question. The course is beautiful and the competition tight so we could have ourselves one hell of an Open on our hands.