LIVE FROM THE US OPEN #11: Big Weir Angle

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ImageNew Yorkers better start learning about their neighbours to the north.


Mike Weir came within a hair's breath of breaking Johnny Miller's US Open record 63, carding a first-round 64 that included a double bogey on the 6th hole. Weir had eight birdies and that lone double bogey blemish to beat playing partner Stephen Ames by a full 10 shots. And Weir certainly knows his history because the last time he had a significant rain delay at a Major was the 2003 Masters.

"In 2003, it rained out the Thursday on a course for long hitters," he said, adding that pundits thought the short and medium-length hitters would then have no chance on the longer, nastier Augusta National.

But Weir used his strengths, accuracy off the tee, pinpoint irons and clutch putting, to win his first major. He appears to be using that same formula to try and get his second.

"I looked at it similar to the (2003) Masters, when the course playing real long," he said. "My thought is if I can get it in the centre of green and putt well, I've got a good chance.

"All of us medium length hitters think we can compete," he said. "This course is amazing. You can tell how good a job the grounds crew did … because I'm wearing white shoes and they're hardly dirty."

Weir shot just the 13th 64 shot in US Open history. When asked if he thought a 64 was on the course before his round, Weir was honest. "No," was his initial reply, but he expanded on that thought quickly. "I wanted to ride the wave once I got out to a good start," he said. "This is as easy as this course can play. Let's enjoy it and go along for the ride."

In many ways, Weir's 64 was the worst number he could have shot because he missed short eight-foot birdie putts on both 17 and 18. Weir didn't make his first big mistake until a double bogey on the 6th hole, his 15th of the day, when he left his greenside chip short and then three-jacked from 30 feet. But the club that seemed to save Weir's bacon all day long was a Taylor Made Rescue hybrid that he put in the bag to replace his three-iron. He used that hybrid to birdie 15 and 3 and he should have birdied 17 after putting his approach to within 10 feet.

Weir started his round just before 11:30 a.m. on Friday and he rained birdies upon a defenceless Bethpage Black. Starting with the 11th, his second hole of the day, Weir went on to shoot a tidy 31 for his first nine.

Birdies at 13, 15 and 16 had ESPN's Curtis Strange raving about how Weir has "flagged his last four approach shots."

Weir and the rest of the players who never got to hit a shot on Thursday are benefiting from the fact it looks like Mother Nature is not a Woods fan. Woods is already 10 strokes out of the lead and with four hours of daylight left, all the golfers who just finished their rounds in the last hour are going right back out to start their second rounds.

Such are the vagaries of a system where dual tee starts off 1 and 10 lead to Thursday morning players playing Friday afternoon in a normal tournament. The last starters on Thursday go out early on Friday in a normal tournament.

But with the crazy weather here on Long Island, the late starters are playing back-to-back today, meaning Woods could be out of the tournament before he hits his next shot, hopefully at 1:36 p.m. Saturday. To put this in perspective, it's like going to a baseball game, having the Boston Red Sox put 10 runs on you in the first inning and before you get to hit in the second inning, the Red Sox get to pound you again.

Somewhere, Sergio Garcia is having a silent chuckle because his complaints in 2002 that the awful Friday afternoon round would have been suspended if Tiger were on the course are still fodder for the New York fans who like to heckle their sporting heroes.

Weir's lead comes on the heels of moderate success from the other three Canadians in the field.

London, Ontario's Andrew Parr was at the top of the leaderboard Thursday night – albeit after only three holes – and he finished with a 74, the same as Ames. The other Canadian, Abbotsford's Nick Taylor carded a 73, meaning all four Canadians are even or better than one Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods. Weir admitted weather has given him a huge advantage and if the weather forecasters are correct, Saturday's projected torrential downpour is going to make Thursday's rain armageddon look like a shower.

While only two golfers shot under par from the morning crew – amateur Drew Weaver and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell both shot 69 – the afternoon crew will be playing their second round starting at 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.

Weir and Ames won't start their rounds until 5:58 p.m. so it's conceivable that Weir could play 27 to 30 holes before the sun sets just after 8:30 p.m. tonight.

All of the best rounds were shot in the afternoon, with Dane Peter Hanson two shots behind Weir at 66 and a trio of surprises, David Duval, Todd Hamilton and Ricky Barnes, all carding nifty 67s.

Hamilton  should be a honourary Canadian because his caddie is Tsawwassen's favourite son, Kieran Docherty.

Duval was the first of the afternoon crew to record a great round, shooting a 67, which saw him recover from bogies on his second and third holes (11 and 12) and record birdies on the 14th, 17th, 4th, 6th and 9th holes.

Another lefty, the sentimental favourite, Phil Mickelson is lurking five shots behind after a roller-coaster 69. Hitting 15 of 18 greens, Mickelson thinks he can post a low number tonight. "The soft conditions are great," he said. "You can land in the rough and (the ball) will kick into the fairway. I'm able to attack pins. … The conditions now will never get easier over the week."

Mickelson was also willing to use the advantage that Mother Nature has given him. "We want to play as much golf as we can today," he said.

On a final note, as I finish writing this at 5:10 p.m. Friday, Abbotsford's Nick Taylor has already started his round and birdied both the first and second holes to get to +1 for the tournament.

More later in my final Friday dispatch but it's off to the course I go now.


ALL "LIVE FROM THE US OPEN" BLOG SUBMISSIONS FROM ALFIE LAU...

MON - Arrvial And Recon In New York And Long Island Click HERE
MON - Touching Base With The Canadians Young Guns In The Field. Click HERE

TUES - Tiger Discusses Sex Change. Click HERE
TUES  - Alternate Plays With Tiger In The AM And Weirsy After Lunch Click HERE

WED - A Media Tent With A Little More Elbow Room  Click HERE
WED - Phil Getting Support From Fans & Request From Wife CLICK HERE  A Little Bit of Vancouver in New York

THURS - A Little Bit of Vancouver in New York CLICK HERE
THURS - Parr Leads Field - After Three Holes  Click HERE

FRI - A Muddy Tiger Click HERE
FRI - Big Weir Apple Click HERE



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By Alfie Lau

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