U.S. Open: Danish golfer Soren Kjeldsen grabs early first round lead

U.S. Open: Danish golfer Soren Kjeldsen grabs the early first round lead in the US national golf championship.

REUTERS/Hans Deryk
U.S. Open: Danish golfer Soren Kjeldsen hits off the 10th tee during the first round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship in Pebble Beach, California on Thursday. Kjeldsen held the early first round lead.

Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark made the early birdies, Phil Mickelson got into early trouble and the problems and possibilities of Pebble shone through Thursday on a sunny start to the U.S. Open.

Kjeldsen, a three-time winner on the European tour, made three birdies over his first six holes to make the turn at 3-under par, one shot ahead of Edoardo Molinari and two in front of a group that included Jim Furyk, Ian Poulter and David Toms.

Early morning cloud cover started to burn off, making it look like the forecast — sunny skies, high around 60, 10 mph wind from the north — would hold true. If it does, it could make Pebble Beach brittle, which is why course workers were busy spraying water on the greens early in the morning in an attempt to keep things from drying out too much.

IN PICTURES: A hole-by-hole look at Pebble Beach Golf Links

Mickelson, in search of the second leg of the 2010 Grand Slam, spent most of his first nine holes in trouble.

He hit long and left onto the beach on No. l7 and had to take a drop en route to bogey. Then, after tucking his tee shot between the two trees on the right side of the 18th fairway, he tried to draw a shot between the trees and toward the green. It didn't draw enough and instead drifted into the hazard and hit a rock before ricocheting far out into the Pacific Ocean. He made his third straight bogey there to reach the turn at 3-over par.

Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood were in a group scheduled to tee off at 4:36 p.m. EDT. Tom Watson, with memories of his near miss at the British Open last year and his famous chip in on No. 17 at Pebble in 1982, was playing with Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa at 4:47.

Ten years ago, the last time the U.S. Open was at Pebble Beach, Woods destroyed the course and the competition, shooting a record 12-under par to win by a record 15 strokes.

His game, and life, have changed drastically since then. The course he's playing this week has only been lengthened 194 yards, to 7,040, the shortest U.S. Open layout in seven years. But it has undergone other subtle alterations designed to keep the teeth in one of America's greatest layouts.

Most notably, fairways on the seaside holes have been closely mowed right up to the hazard lines, increasing the possibility of an errant drive or approach dropping off into one of the world's biggest water hazards — the Pacific Ocean.

That happened to Stephen Ames early, as his approach on the heavily slanted tenth fairway dropped off into the water and he had to drop and get up and down to save bogey.

"You just don't hit it there," Watson said Wednesday, when asked about the new layout, which includes some hazard lines drawn right onto the edges of the fairway. "I mean, they show it to you. It's not blind. They say, 'Don't hit it there.'"


IN PICTURES: A hole-by-hole look at Pebble Beach Golf Links

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