Jack Nicklaus acknowledged he was not used to getting up at the crack of dawn to make a 7:20 a.m. tee time. Nor is he accustomed to shooting 78 in the first round of the U.S. Open, having made the cut in the past five events.
But today, Nicklaus was definitely feeling his age, and the effects of hip replacement surgery in January. Playing that early in the mist and rain, he had difficulty seeing distances to the green and breaks on the putting surfaces, asking his caddie to help him line up his putts on the first three holes.
Nicklaus's score was easy enough to explain. The 7,175-yard, par-70 course played considerably tougher today because there was virtually no roll in rain-soaked fairways. Once the longest hitter in the game, he dominated for most of three decades. But the winner of 18 professional major championships simply couldn't compete the way he's always been accustomed.
"I just didn't have the strength," he said. "I was hoping for fast, dry conditions. With my lack of strength these days, I think that would have suited me better. Today I hit woods into par-4s five times. I guess I'm getting a dose of my own medicine after all these years."
Nicklaus had only one birdie, at the longest par-4 on the course, a 485-yard test at No. 8, which normally plays as a par-5 when the Open's not in town. He said he hit a 2-iron a touch thin, but got an excellent result when it skittered up through the apron and stopped two feet from the pin.
But he had bogeys on five of his first six holes, and never could recover when he hit only five fairways and seven greens in regulation. "I didn't play well," he said. "I didn't drive the ball well, didn't hit my irons well and didn't putt very well. Other than that, everything was great."
Words in Dispute
Earl Woods, Tiger Woods's talkative father, made some comments in the May/June issue of Icon, a bimonthly men's magazine, that could rile the Scottish.
Of Scotland, the game's birthplace, Earl Woods said: "That's for white people. It sucks as far as I'm concerned. Scotland has the sorriest weather. People had better be happy that the Scots lived there instead of the soul brothers -- the game of golf would never have been invented. We wouldn't have been stupid enough to go out in that weather . . . and freeze to death. We would have been inside listening to jazz, laughing and joking and drinking rum."
Woods told Golf World magazine he did not make such comments.
Susan Zakin, who said she conducted the Icon interview by telephone on Feb. 4, told Golf World she had a tape of the interview, and that Woods knew he was being recorded. Tucson-based Zakin played the tape today over the telephone for several reporters, and it indicated that Woods was quoted accurately during a somewhat jocular conversation.
Asked about the comments today, Tiger Woods said, "He didn't say it. My dad is not like that. My dad knows Scotland is a wonderful place. . . . My dad didn't mean any harm if he did say it, but I don't think he even said it."
Fred Funk, the former University of Maryland golf coach, didn't have a par on his first five holes. He opened with a double bogey, three birdies and a bogey, then bogeyed the 18th to finish at 71. . . . Michael Muehr of Great Falls, a Nike Tour player, birdied the 191-yard 17th and came in at 74. . . . U.S. Amateur champion Hank Kuehne of Dallas, the man he beat in last year's final, Tom McKnight of Galax, Va., and Erik Ciotti were low among the seven amateurs at 72.