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Oakmont and its challengers spar in first round

The first round of the the U.S. Open went like the first round of a heavyweight championship bout with both sides feeling each other out -- I'm talking about the field of golfers vs. Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh. I've always viewed the U.S. Open as a gentler turn on the old Jack London theme -- man vs. his environment -- rather than individuals competing against each other.

Yesterday on opening day, because of recent rain that softened the greens and some fairly kind pin placements, Oakmont didn't stagger the field but then again, only two players were in the red. The leader after 18 was Nick Dougherty, a 25-year-old Englishman from Liverpool, with a 2-under 68. The other was Angel Cabrera at 1-under.

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After his round, Dougherty was quoted as saying, "I think the course is -- I hate saying it -- easy."

Then, as if the course were listening, he changed his tune, adding hastily, "Goodness, I shouldn't have said that. No, absolutely not. The course is barbaric."

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Tiger Woods scrambled a little late in the round to hold onto to his 1-over for the day, and Phil Mickelson, with a sore left wrist, was at 4-over. If the greens harden, though, Oakmont could turn into a nasty adversary and scores will soar. Here's the leaderboard.

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