Stricker in hunt at even par after first round at US Open

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By John Boyette
Special to The Gazette
Thursday, June 12, 2014

PINEHURST, N.C.--Steve Stricker said Pinehurst No. 2 played a little soft for Thursday’s opening round of the U.S. Open.

He knows it will only get tougher.

The Wisconsin native shot even-par 70 and trails leader Martin Kaymer by five shots. But he’s not worried about someone running away with the tournament.

“Somebody may, it depends on how they set it up,” he said. “There’s a lot of variables. I’m sure they’re going to make it tougher. They wanted to see how it was going to play (Thursday). The course played a little softer than it did the three practice round days.”

Stricker started his round on the par-5 10th and made birdies on two of his first three holes along with a bogey. His only disappointment was a bogey at the 18th hole.

“I drove it pretty good down the middle of the fairway and only had 140-something yards,” he said. “I tried to hit an easy 8-iron and just fatted it and ended up making bogey there from the middle of the fairway.”

On his final nine, he made one birdie and one bogey to complete his round of even par.

“I got away with a couple in the native areas or wild areas, side of the fairways, but all in all did some good things,” he said.

After his round he headed for the putting green to get some practice in, but he said there was nothing wrong with his stroke.

“I actually putted pretty good,” said Stricker, who needed only 27 putts. “I just wanted to free it up a little bit. You get tentative out there because it’s the Open and you’re trying to not make a mistake.”

Stricker was pleased with his iron play, hitting 10 greens in regulation.

“Which around here is pretty good,” he said.

He said Pinehurst’s restoration reminds him of Augusta National Golf Club or the Metropolitan Golf Club in Australia, not Whistling Straits back home.

“This is a pretty unique place,” he said. “A few holes like Augusta, maybe, not the waste areas so much but up around the greens where they fall off and run away. That’s Augusta-like.

“The waste area is more like Australia, where you have brush and sand and gunch right off the fairway.”

Like those courses, he only expects it to become more difficult.

“I’m sure they’ve got a good feel for what they want to do, and it’s only going to get tougher,” Stricker said.

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