By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Justin Rose began play with what he called a “Plan B.” He was fully prepared to enjoy the day and bask in the glory of his U.S. Open championship even if his golf was not sharp.
It appeared it might be a day to accept a rugged round and just enjoy his success when Rose made back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and sixth holes. That’s when the competitor kicked in. Rose was 2 over through six holes but birdied the seventh and turned in 36. He then ripped off birdies on Nos. 12 through 16 to come home in 31 and shoot a 67. Rose had no idea how he would respond after winning his first major championship and discovered the competitor in him will never allow anything less then full effort.
Driving: If you haven’t noticed already, Hunter Mahan is one of the longer, straighter drivers on the PGA TOUR. He hit 13 of 14 fairways while averaging 296.6 yards. Mahan has a “boring” ball flight that cuts through the wind and he can control the shape of shots. Playing from the middle of the fairway, Mahan was able to hit 16 of 18 greens. When you hit 16 greens and take 27 putts you are going to post a good number (62), but for Mahan, it all starts with his driver.
History: Charley Hoffman had a chance to win this tournament last year. He led on the 17th tee but his drive ended up in the water and he then bogeyed the final hole. Despite the bad ending, he came to TPC River Highlands with good thoughts and it’s reflected in his opening-round 61. Hoffman did not have a single 5 on his scorecard. Look how impressive these numbers are on the back nine: 2-3-3-3-4-3-3-4-3--28
What about the 17th? Hoffman hit his drive down the right-hand side, flirted with the water and landed 10 feet from the lake. It appears that will be an interesting hole to watch Hoffman play this entire week.
Hardest hole: The 10th is always a strange hole with a tree in the fairway. It’s a 453-yard par 4 that showed two personalities in the opening round. It gave up two eagles. John Huh holed out from 188 yards and Hoffman hit it into the cup from 169 yards. Even with those two eagles, it played as the toughest hole in the opening round. It’s very unusual for a hole to be the hardest on the course and give up a pair of eagles.
Long ball: If there is a hole that tempts Bubba Watson, it’s the 15th. At 305 yards, it’s an inviting target. Watson took dead aim on Thursday, hitting his approach to within 6 feet and converting the eagle. It’s a difficult distance for Bubba, since he has to dial it back. Watson hits driver much too far to use on a 305-yard hole. He put the approach on the front of the green and the ball released perfectly to the cup. Hitting the 15th green is only half the equation, holding that green from 305 is very difficult.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here