U.S. Open: Birdies hard to find at Pebble Beach

U.S. Open: Momentum at Pebble Beach early Thursday lasted about as long as it took to get to the next tee box.

By , AP

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    U.S. Open: Tom Lehman hits a drive on the second hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Thursday, June 17, 2010, at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif.
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Mike Weir popped the ball out of the tangled rough, then watched it hit the green and fall in the hole for a birdie on No. 16 and sole possession of the U.S. Open lead.

Too bad momentum at Pebble Beach early Thursday lasted about as long as it took to get to the next tee box.

The 2003 Masters champion followed his great shot with a bogey-bogey finish to wind up at 1-under 70. He was tied for the lead with K.J. Choi and Rafael Cabrera-Bello after a good opening round that, at times, seemed like it could have been better.

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"You don't want to finish a round like that. It's never a good thing," Weir said. "But it wasn't because I was looking at the scoreboard and looking at where I am in the tournament. Because it's Thursday, and I just happened to hit a couple of poor shots."

He wasn't alone. The sun was shining and the wind was blowing on one of America's great courses for the opening round, leading to the specter of a brittle course and dry, unreceptive greens that were waiting for Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Tom Watson and the rest with afternoon tee times.

Woods, who won by a record 15 strokes at Pebble Beach in 2000, opened play by placing a long iron in the middle of the fairway on the first hole, a 380-yard par 4.

Phil Mickelson played in the morning and the greens were only part of his troubles. He hit one ball onto the beach on No. 17, another off the rocks and careening into the ocean on 18. He left a ball in a bunker on No. 4 and missed a four-foot birdie putt on No. 6. All part of a frustrating day that left this year's Masters winner at 4-over 75.

"I don't believe I should have shot over par," Mickelson said. "I putted horrific. You're going to make some bogeys, going to hit a couple of bad shots here and there. But I gave myself plenty of opportunities and just couldn't get the ball in the hole."

He probably did not do enough damage to put himself out of the tournament. This, after all, was a day in which there were a grand total of six players under par with the afternoon rounds about to start. Ian Poulter, Jason Dufner and Craig Barlow were close to the end of their rounds at 1 under, joining Weir, Choi and Cabrera-Bello, who shared the clubhouse lead.

"This course, it looks like it's wide-open fairway, but in the teeing ground, in the mindset, you look right, look left, either way is very tough," Choi said. "And you can't stop in the bouncing, so you're very scared on the tee shot."

Cabrera-Bello is making his debut at the majors. He was the first person to tee off on No. 10. No pressure there, right? The 26-year-old Spaniard opened with a birdie and briefly got to 2 under before finishing at 70.

"It started good for me on the first hole and then, throughout the middle of the round, I made several bogeys but it was nice to get it back at the end," he said.

Cabrera-Bello was one of many who had brief stints alone at the top of the leaderboard.

Mikko Ilonen birdied his first two holes but then began a freefall that left him at 4-over 75.

Sweden's Robert Karlsson was briefly at 2 under, but hit a chip up to the eighth green that reached the crest of the hill and rolled back, only a few paces from where he started. He made bogey there, the beginning of another freefall. He was 4 over with three holes left in his round.

Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark spent most of the morning in the lead, making three birdies over the first six holes. But Pebble caught up to him, too. He made four bogeys on the back to finish at 1-over 72.

Earlier in the week, Choi said his goal was to shoot par all four days, and if he did that, he thought he'd be in pretty good shape. After one day, he was holding to that thought.

"Every day," he said, "even par is a good situation."

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