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100th US Open gets underway
A day after breaking down in tears
at a poignant ceremony for the late Payne Stewart, Sergio Garcia
wore navy plus fours in Stewart's honor Thursday in the first round
of the U.S. Open.
Stewart, whose plus fours were a personal trademark, died in a
plane crash four months after winning the 1999 Open. His absence
has left a huge emotional void at the 100th Open, which opened on a
sunny, serene day along the Pacific coast.
Early starters were taking advantage of the calm conditions. Hal
Sutton opened with an eagle and birdie, and John Huston reached the
turn at 2-under 33. Bob May was a stroke behind, also through nine.
While the weather was close to ideal, nature was finding other
ways of making life difficult for the golfers.
The death of a huge tree prompted officials to change the second
hole on the Pebble Beach course from a par 5 to a par 4, and many
golfers stumbled on that hole in early play.
There were 15 bogeys, a double-bogey and just two birdies among
the first 24 golfers to play the second.
An exception was Sutton, who had an eagle 2 on the 381-yard
first before a birdie at the second.
On the eve of the Open, some 40 of Stewart's peers splashed
balls into the ocean in a golfing version of a 21-gun salute.
Stewart's widow, Tracey, choked back tears while addressing the
players and thousands of fans who attended the morning tribute on
the 18th green.
Paul Azinger, one of Stewart's closest friends, paused several
times to compose himself.
``If golf was art, then Payne was the color,'' Azinger said.
``The challenge is not to forget Payne, and not just Payne the
golfer, but Payne the person.''
At an Open marking Jack Nicklaus' farewell to a tournament he
has won four times, a constant stream of visitors lingered at a
glass case memorializing the defending champion.
At a spot called Payne's Place in the middle of the U.S. Open
village, fans paraded past a display honoring Stewart's dramatic
win in the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, N.C.
The display holds the outfit Stewart wore on the final day of
that tournament, which he won by sinking a 15-foot putt on the 18th
hole, as well as his gloves and final ball - both of which he
In addition to memories of Stewart, there is plenty of emotion
at this centennial U.S. Open. Fans are pulling for Nicklaus, the
only player to win an Open (1972) and a U.S. Amateur title (1961)
at Pebble Beach.
This is Nicklaus' 44th U.S. Open.
And there's sure to be plenty of drama on a course that has
produced some unforgettable U.S. Open memories - such as a
final-round duel between Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in 1972, or Tom
Watson's decisive birdie on the 17th on a pitch out of the rough in
Even though nine former champions are in the field, the
overwhelming favorite is Tiger Woods - who has been playing at
Pebble Beach since he was 13, and already has made his mark on the
photogenic spot along the craggy Pacific coastline.
Four months ago, in a National Pro-Am that finished a day late
because of awful weather, Woods rallied from a 7-shot deficit with
seven holes to play. He made three birdies and an eagle from the
fairway in those seven holes, and won by two strokes.
It was his sixth straight PGA Tour victory, the longest streak
in more than 50 years, and continued a stretch he carries into the
U.S. Open - in his last 25 tournaments around the world, Woods has
finished out of the top 10 only twice.
In fact, Woods has won 11 of his last 20 tour events.
The course has changed since the last Open, with a newly
redesigned par-3 fifth hole and a par of 71 after the second hole
was trimmed to a par-4.
What hadn't changed was the romance of one of the world's great
``The golf course has always had a special place in my heart,''
said Woods, seeking his first Open title and his third major
championship. ``One, for its pristine beauty, and another for the
mystique behind Pebble Beach.''