The Australian Open Kickoff

In the first round of the Tiger Woods Open, also known as the Australian Open, it’s fair to say that not too many people were betting that Tiger would shoot a low number. Oh, they might have thought that his glory days were possible once again, but his recent results have been erratic and modest at best.

And the beginning of his round gave every indication that it was going to be another flat performance. In fact, as he made par after par on the front nine, the tension began to mount, not over when he was going ignite and go low, but rather, when he would start making bogeys. Even if it was just a few, how long before the wheels started wobbling and how big a hole would he dig for himself.

And then he birdied the par-5 8th…and the par-4 10th…and the par-5 11th…and the par-4 13th. He had an eagle putt on the par-5 14th, but it was from a light-year away over pronounced undulations in the huge green. He got an ovation for how close he came to the hole, but the ball meandered outside the comfort zone and he three-putted. Perhaps that took the fire out of him because he could only manage all pars to the house. Given how bad things have been for him, that’s not a terrible outcome. And with this solid start under his belt, the second round could be pretty good. He starts on the back side which is thought to be easier to score on.

It’s also fair to say that one of the other big surprises at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney, Australia, was Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples shooting 5-under to wind up T4 with four Aussies. Like Tiger, he bunched four birdies together mid-round with his lone birdie. And then he threw in two at 14 and 18, a 209-yard par 3.

The first day leader is Aussie, Jarrod Lyle, who has been attempting with modest success to live up to all of his press clippings as he graduated to the PGA Tour. He’s only made $1.4 million in four seasons. But there he sits at 7-under with a one-shot lead and not a bogey on his card; five birdies and an eagle. It was good to see, but when this sort of thing occurs, the typical reaction is to start thinking about it, to try to do what you did yesterday. As I’ve said before, thinking about it and trying to emulate another time’s swing thoughts is not being in the present.

Top Gun, Dustin Johnson is the guy sitting in 2nd with fellow American Nick Watney. He shot 6-under with a lot of fireworks: eight birdies against two bogeys. He strung five of those birdies together 12 through 16 which he played as his front side…and which he began with one of the bogeys. Except for a par on 15, Watney birdied to the house from 13 to join Johnson.

Other Americans who did well were Bubba Watson, T9 at 4-under; John Cook, T15 at 3-under.

Relevant only because of the looming Presidents Cup, the only two Americans who underperformed relative to the rest of the field were Hunter Mahan, 1-over and T80 and Matt Kuchar, 2-over and T92. They could miss the cut if they don’t get it together.

The tournament is still underway as I post this, so some of the player positions may change as the afternoon tee times straggle in. But things should remain relatively stable and we’re in for a very interesting second round.

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