Accolades, awe follow Woods from one major to another U.S. OPEN NOTEBOOK


SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- The setting had changed, from Augusta National to Shinnecock Hills. The tournament had changed, from the 59th Masters to the 95th U.S. Open.

"Totally different golf courses, totally different people," said Tiger Woods, when asked to compare the sites of his first two major professional championships.

Only the awe of the Tiger remained the same.

From the fans who crowded to get a glimpse of the 19-year-old prodigy, to those he played with in yesterday's opening round, the first impressions here were very much the same as they were in April at Augusta.

After consistently out-driving both first-round leader Nick Price and defending champion Ernie Els, it was left to Price to sum up those impressions. It didn't seem to matter that Woods finished with a roller-coaster round of 74 that included only seven pars, including a stretch of 10 holes without one.

"Amazing," Price said of Woods' prodigious drives. "He is up there with John Daly. We were talking about that on 16 today. He hits the ball so far. I mean, I can't see where he gets all his power from, but the ball just takes off like a rocket.

"He out-drove me three times today by about 50 yards and I am in the top 10 in driving distance. Ernie and I felt a little powerless out there with this kid. I don't want to call him a kid. He is taller than I am. He is one of the few I have ever seen who has got just a normal-looking swing and hits the ball as far as John Daly. This guy is incredible."

Woods, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, did show his inexperience. Though Woods blamed his erratic round on poor putting, Price thought it had more to do with being too aggressive on a course that asks for patience. After five bogeys and a birdie on the first seven holes, Woods made three straight birdies to get it back to 1-over. But a bogey at 11 and a double at 14 -- he took a penalty after a wild drive -- left Woods at 3-over 74.

"It was a good round," said Woods, who recently completed his freshman year at Stanford.

Asked how it was to play with Price and Els, Woods said, "I had a great time playing with two friendly guys. I learned a lot."

But the vocal crowd seemed to interest Woods even more.

"They told me what to do on a lot of shots," he said.

No excuses for Els

Els, the 25-year-old South African, did not get off well in trying to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to successfully defend his title.

"I have no excuses," said Els, who finished with 74. "After I double-bogeyed No. 6, it brought me down."

Getting off to a fast start

Much was made by the USGA about getting the Open off to a fast start. And the first threesome -- Fulton Allem, Mike Standly and Brian Martin -- which teed off at 6:45 a.m., played the round in 3 1/2 hours.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad