Associated Press
Monday, June 19

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- In thick, soupy fog that slowly crept across Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods made it perfectly clear why he is the man to beat in the U.S. Open.

 Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods played the front nine in 33 to get on the leaderboard.
Woods made the toughest test in golf look like a casual stroll along the seaside with the lowest score ever for a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, a 6-under 65 that gave him a one-stroke lead over Miguel Angel Jimenez in the first round Thursday.

He also sent a powerful message to the rest of the field: Catch me if you can.

"I think it's a lot easier to play from a spot near the lead than it is when you're that far behind," Woods said. "I'd much rather have the lead than try to catch up."

Four months ago at Pebble Beach, Woods stormed from seven strokes behind on his final seven holes to win the National Pro-Am. The view from the first round was much better, even if he could barely make out the green from 200 yards away in the white shroud of fog.

"We always called this `June Gloom' because the fog always rolls in," Woods said.

It could be "June Doom" for everyone else.

It certainly was for John Daly, who withdrew after taking a 14 on the last hole for an 83.

Daly, just 3-over on the day, hit one ball out of bounds, three in the ocean, hit a left-handed shot from against the sea wall in the bunker and walked off the course without talking.

Tiger at Pebble
Tiger Woods says Pebble Beach is one of his favorite golf courses. His best professional rounds at the course:
Year Score Round
1997 AT&T 63 3rd
1997 AT&T 64 4th
2000 AT&T 64 4th
2000 U.S. Open 65 1st
2000 AT&T 68 3rd

The first round was suspended with 75 players still on the course as the fog reduced visibility to about 100 yards. They will return at 6:45 a.m. PT on Friday.

Among those still on the course was Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters and British Open champion who hasn't won in more than three years. With five birdies and an eagle on his first 12 holes, Faldo was at 4-under.

Former U.S. Open champion Corey Pavin was at 3-under, along with Loren Roberts, who lost in a three-way Open playoff at Oakmont in 1994.

Among the group another shot back was 55-year-old Hale Irwin, who was 2-under after eight holes. Fellow senior Jack Nicklaus, playing in his 44th consecutive Open, was 2-over through eight holes.

Jimenez, whom Woods beat in a playoff at Valderrama in November, made three straight birdies on the front nine and finished with an 18-foot birdie putt for a 5-under 66.

That victory in Spain was among the six in a row by Woods. He has set himself apart from his peers in the past year, with 11 victories in his last 20 PGA Tour events and finishing out of the top 10 just twice in his last 25 tournaments worldwide.

Once again, he played with few flaws.

"I made a lot of crucial putts, and you have to do that in a U.S. Open," said Woods, who spent two hours working on his stroke late Wednesday afternoon.

John Huston took advantage of being in the second group off, when sunshine bathed Pebble Beach with only a fresh breeze. He had a 4-under 67, his best start ever in a U.S. Open.

Right behind was Bobby Clampett, who knows Pebble better than anyone else, having grown up on the Monterey Peninsula. In his first U.S. Open since 1986, in his first tournament of the year, Clampett birdied four of the first 10 holes and finished with a 68.

"Can you believe this?" Clampett said. "It was extremely emotional for me. At times out there, I was fighting off the tears."

Just as amazing as Woods' 65 was the fact he made no bogeys, a rarity in any U.S. Open. Woods saved par from 15 feet on the 11th, made a 10-footer on the hourglass green at No. 17, and got up-and-down four other times for par.

The fog kept the greens from getting too crusty and the wind was moderate at best. Clearly, this was the day for scoring. But as so many others found out, the U.S. Open is never a championship to attack at will.

Hal Sutton, who holed an 8-iron from 136 yards for eagle on the opening hole, was at 6-under until he missed the green left on the par-5 14th and paid dearly.

His chip from spinach-like rough went over the pin, down the slope and off the front of the green. He failed to get up-and-down and finished off his round of 69 with another bogey on the 18th when he hit into the rough off the tee.

Because of the fog, he didn't realize he was in the rough until he got there.

"I elected to hit 3-iron to where I could see," Sutton said.

Phil Mickelson, the runner-up at Pinehurst No. 2 a year ago, got off to a rocky start but made birdies on three of his last six holes for an even-par 71, along with Lee Westwood, Paul Azinger and Tom Lehman.

Not everyone was that fortunate.

David Duval had a 40 on the back nine with bogeys on both par 5s and had a 75. Jeff Sluman, the runner-up at Pebble Beach in the '92 Open, had a 78.

Still, no one was willing to concede to Woods quite yet.

"He put up a very good score," said Sergio Garcia, who wore knickers to honor the late Payne Stewart and had a 75. "But if you shoot 1- or 2-under, he could struggle very easily on this course. You can go 2- or 3-over just like that.

"The tournament is not over. It just started."

Woods hasn't shown much capacity to struggle anywhere, much less Pebble Beach. On his last competitive round on the spectacular course along the rugged California coastline, he had a 64 to cap off his thrilling comeback.

Woods immediately thrust himself into the thick of the championship with a tap-in birdie on No. 4 and a 15-foot birdie putt on the dangerous par-3 seventh hole. He made another nice save from the thick collar around the eighth green, lofting a chip to a foot.

"I don't think anyone is trying to catch me," Woods said. "Everyone is trying to set themselves up for a nice little run on Sunday."

Told that his 65 was a U.S. Open record at Pebble Beach -- Gil Morgan had a 6-under 66 in 1992 -- Woods shrugged.

"If I do it four straight days, it would be pretty good," he said.

The last player to win the U.S. Open after leading the first day was Stewart, who went on to defeat Scott Simpson in 1991 at Hazeltine.



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ALSOSEE:
First-round leaders' scorecards

Frozen moment: Tiger's simple little par

Harig: Mickelson shows some grit

Hole of the Day -- No. 7

Checking in from Pebble Beach -- Thursday

Daly suffers annual Open meltdown

Garcia pays tribute to Stewart with first-round knickers

AUDIO/VIDEO:
Tiger Woods hits the sweet shot out the bunker on 18 (Courtesy: NBC).
avi: 919 k
Real: 56.6 | ISDN | T1


Tiger Woods knocks in the birdie putt on 10 (Courtesy: NBC).
avi: 744 k
Real: 56.6 | ISDN | T1


Bobby Clampett sinks the birdie putt on 10 (Courtesy: NBC).
avi: 811 k
Real: 56.6 | ISDN | T1


Hal Sutton hits the eagle shot from the fairway on the opening hole. (Courtesy: NBC)
avi: 1113 k
Real: 56.6 | ISDN | T1


Nick Faldo sinks the eagle shot on 6 (Courtesy: NBC).
avi: 658 k
Real: 56.6 | ISDN | T1


Phil Mickelson hits one out of the rough (Courtesy: NBC).
avi: 873 k
Real: 56.6 | ISDN | T1


ESPN's Andy North and Karl Ravech look at opening day of the U.S. Open.
Real: 28.8

ESPN's Andy North touches on the weather conditions and John Daly's performance.
Real: 28.8

Tiger Woods touches on having the lead, course difficulty, and his game.
wav: 286 k
Real: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6


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