Light rain produced a somewhat dreary start to the U.S. Open, but there was Davis Love III to brighten the morning, resplendent in his pink pants matching the color of bubble gum, or better yet, Pepto-Bismol.
Not normally one for starburst sartorial choices, the former PGA Champion began a virtual cavalcade of conspicuous attire. Joining him were Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, both of whom sported can’t-miss trouser selections.
Turns out Love and Simpson simply were following some gentle nudging from clothing sponsor Polo, which apparently likes its apparel to be visible from clear across the golf course.
“I was just obeying one of my sponsors,” Simpson said of his lime-green shirt and pink slacks. “They picked it out for me.”
Said Love: “I put this on for my wife, and I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ She said they look great, so between my wife and Ralph Lauren, I lost out.”
Watson, meantime, wore camouflage pants to raise money for charities benefiting military families.
Watson and Love not only stood out for their wardrobe choices but also their first-round performances. Love finished 1-under, and Watson was even par.
Though the USGA said Congressional’s greens — put under duress during extreme heat over the past two weeks — would be in good shape for the opening of the championship, several had noticeable brown patches. As the week wears on, that could limit the number of potential pin placements. Defending champ Graeme McDowell, for instance, said the forward pin placements at 4 and 12 were already in spotty patches.
“Probably before they lose them, you know?” McDowell said. “Of course they’ve taken this golf course . . . to the edge to try to dry it as much as they can. There are certain areas of the greens that you can see are under stress. They’re very stressed.”
Before the spell of hot weather, the USGA had wanted the greens to roll at 14-14.5 on the Stimpmeter, which measures green speeds. But because they had to be conservative in preparation — so they didn’t outright kill the greens — they ran at 13.5 to start the day, a number that organizers figured had settled into the 12s by the afternoon.
“They’re doing a good job at the minute,” McDowell said.
Congressional’s greens were replaced beginning in 2009 and are less than two years old.
Last year, Gregory Havret nearly became the first to win the championship in his first appearance in a U.S. Open since Francis Ouimet in 1913. The 34-year-old Frenchman finished second, one shot behind Graeme McDowell.
That was a special time for Havret, not only because of how well he played but also because his parents, Dominique and Monique, were at Pebble Beach to watch him. Havret’s father will not be here at this U.S. Open; he died 10 days ago from vascular disease while Havret was playing in the Wales Open. The U.S. Open is Havret’s first tournament since his father’s death.
“My father was always proud,” Havret said. “It’s obviously something to come back and play the game he loves more than anything.
“It means a lot for me to be here and I want to do well.”
Playing with a heavy heart, Havret did not start well. He made three bogeys and a double bogey on his first nine holes, but did better after the turn to finish at 6-over-par 77.
GARCIA STARTS WELL: A month ago, it seemed that Sergio Garcia wouldn’t be anywhere near Bethesda this week. He had fallen well out of the top 50 in the world rankings and was not exempt into the U.S. Open field. And he said — repeatedly — that he would not play a sectional qualifier to try to play his way into the field.
Somehow, that line of thinking changed, and Garcia indeed played a qualifier June 6 outside Memphis, birdieing the first playoff hole to gain an invitation to Congressional. And he started his Open Thursday with a solid 2-under 69 that, despite a finishing bogey, left him tied for fourth, four shots back of leader Rory McIlroy.
“Overall I think it was a nice round to start with,” Garcia said.
“There’s still a long way to go. We haven’t done anything yet.”
Garcia, 30, is playing in his 12th straight U.S. Open. His best finish was a tie for third in 2005 at Pinehurst. In his last 31 starts worldwide, dating to last year, he has only three top-10 finishes.
UIHLEIN CARDS A 72: Peter Uihlein, the 2010 U.S. Amateur Champion, turned in a more-than-respectable showing. The 21-year-old Oklahoma State golfer shot a 1-over 72. “I’ll take it,” he said. “It’s my first U.S. Open. I’ll definitely take it.”
Michael Whitehead heard members of the galleries mumbling it under their breath during his round this morning, exactly as they had in practice rounds earlier this week:
“That’s Tiger’s replacement,” they said.
“After good shots, luckily,” said Whitehead, who shot 6-over 77 that included four consecutive bogeys beginning at No. 12.
Whitehead is here only because Tiger Woods withdrew last week, citing lingering issues with his left leg. Whitehead was the first alternate after losing in a three-way playoff at a sectional qualifier in Dallas.
“Since last Wednesday I was definitely looking forward to finally getting on the course and teeing it up,” Whitehead said.