Casey grabs share of the lead

Paul Casey claimed a share of the lead after the first round of the US Open following a two-under-par 69 at Pebble Beach.

Paul Casey claimed a share of the lead after the first round of the US Open following a two-under-par 69 at Pebble Beach on Thursday.
The Englishman, who mixed four birdies with two bogeys, was one of only three players to break 70 on the opening day as the season’s second major once again lived up to its reputation as golf’s toughest test with low-scoring at a premium.
Casey was joined at the top of the leaderboard by 2003 USPGA champion Shaun Micheel and unheralded South African Brendon De Jonge.
They finished the day a stroke clear of a group of six players at one-under headed up by another Englishman, Ian Poulter.
Also in the posse just one back are Korea’s KJ Choi, Japanese starlet Ryo Ishikawa, Mike Weir of Canada and two more Europeans, Alex Cejka of Germany and Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell both posted rounds of 70 to finish the day two off the pace along with American duo Dustin Johnson and David Toms, but a number of big names struggled.
World number one Tiger Woods and playing partner Lee Westwood both had to settle for rounds of 74 having teed off later in the day.
Westwood endured an awful start with two bogeys and double-bogey leaving him four-over through five, but battled away and managed to limit the damage with four birdies cancelling out a further three dropped shots.
Woods’ long game looked far more solid than during his most recent outings, but he simply could not get anything going with the putter.
Despite hitting his first ten greens in regulation, Woods finished his round without a single birdie – the first time that has happened at a major since the first round of the 2003 Masters.
Three-putts at the ninth and 16th cost him bogey and a poor chip at the last resulted in another, with the American clearly unhappy about the state of the greens when questioned at the end of his round.
“I hit the ball well enough to shoot a low score, but these greens are awful,” he said. “You just can’t leave yourself a second putt.
“You’ve just got to be patient. I felt very consistent all day, I felt I hit good shots, it was just tough out there.”
Another man who failed to make a single birdie was Phil Mickelson – the first time in three years he has failed to do so.
The world number two signed for a four-over 75 and acknowledged afterwards he had also paid the price for a poor display with the putter.
But, by contrast, Casey was delighted with his display with they flat-stick and admitted his ability to save par at crucial times had been the key to his excellent start.
“My putting was really good today,” he declared. “It was a case of not making mistakes out there.
“I went in with low expectations as my ball-striking hasn’t been particularly great this week, and nor was it today. But I putted well to save myself a couple of times.”
England’s Ross McGowan and Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark both fired creditable rounds of 72, while defending champion Lucas Glover was one shot further back with the likes of Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez, while Rory McIlroy opened with a 75.