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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – This isn’t something to bring up at the next Masters Champions dinner, but for Mike Weir there’s nowhere better in golf than the downhill par-three seventh, and the cliffhanging par-4 eighth at Pebble Beach.
Including Amen Corner at Augusta National?
“For me, yeah,” Weir said on Thursday after carding a three-over 74 in round one of the U.S. Open. “It’s just more scenic and more dramatic and the balls hang in the air for so long. You think it’s the right distance but you just never know, it’s hanging up there for so long.”
On Thursday, Weir nearly aced the famous short par three, landing his ball right beside the hole before making a four-foot birdie putt. It was one of five birdies on the day for the 2003 Masters champ, but with eight bogeys on his card he left the course unhappy with his start to the season’s third major.
“I’m disappointed,” he said after signing for a 74. “I just didn’t get the ball in the fairway enough.”
Weir hit just seven of 14 fairways on Thursday and often found himself in the wrong spot on a golf course where strategy is vital. Playing just over 7,000 yards, success at Pebble Beach depends on putting your ball in correct positions off the tee and making sure your misses end up in the right spots off the greens.
“I’m hitting my irons good and I just missed it on the wrong side of the hole, which you can’t do around here with the greens, they’re a lot firmer now,” Weir said. “So if you missed it on the wrong side you’re giving yourself some tough pitches almost impossible up and downs so I did that four or five times just … that was just poor execution on my part.”
Weir is thrilled to be at his favourite course in the world and said that earning a spot through sectional qualifying was more rewarding than the years he played as an exempt player. His game has felt good for nearly a year and he had a great week of practice here in Monterey. All of which makes Thursday’s three-over par score more disappointing for the 49-year-old. Weir said that he had planned to soak in every moment of U.S. Open week, knowing that likely it is his last trip to Pebble for a major. But on Thursday, the competitor in him came out and soaking it all in took a backseat to trying to figure it all out.
His downhill putt on the 16th hole somehow came to rest hanging over the edge of the cup. His drive on the ninth – his final hole – travelled one yard too far and found the fairway bunker. His stance in that bunker was fine for a righty, but not for a lefty. After a lifetime of grinding, perhaps Thursday’s hard battle was a fitting way for Weir to start his U.S. Open. Perhaps the Masters champ who started his career with six years on mini-tours wouldn’t have it any other way.
Or, maybe not.
“I would have it any other way,” Weir said. “Boy oh boy, that was a strange round.”
ROUGH START FOR TAYLOR
Bogeying your first three holes is no way to start a U.S. Open, although making an eagle at the last hole isn’t too bad.
That was Thursday at the U.S. Open for Canada’s Nick Taylor, who also finished the day with a three-over-par 74.
“The start wasn’t ideal but I hung in there and I hit it really well actually over the last 15 holes,” he said after his round.
Taylor was five-over heading to Pebble Beach’s famous par-5 closing hole. After a 300-yard drive, he hit a wonderful second shot that left him just ten feet for an eagle three. Making the putt was a good way to end a bad day for Taylor, who had high hopes playing here on a course he loves, and coming off an RBC Canadian Open that saw him tied for third heading to the weekend.
“It’s nice to finish that way and put me back in a spot where I can shoot a good round tomorrow and get back into it,” Taylor said.
“Make as many birdies as possible.”
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