Tiger Woods Takes Lead at U.S. Open

Thursday, June 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Tiger Woods made his move in the first round of the U.S. Open just as fog and wind rolled in from the Pacific Ocean early Thursday afternoon.

Woods, the overwhelming favorite, had his fifth birdie of the round on the par-5 14th hole, pitching out of the rough and sinking a mid-length putt to move to 5 under par for a one-stroke lead.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, who had five birdies on his opening seven holes before a bogey 5 at the ninth, was at 4 under.

The clubhouse leader was John Huston, also at 4 under with a 67, followed by Bobby Clampett, who qualified for his first Open in 14 years and was at 3-under 68.

Hal Sutton, who led for much of the round but fell back with a double-bogey 7 at the 14th and bogeyed the 16th, was at 3 under with a hole to play.

Sutton, who was limited to a single practice hole this week because of injuries, pitched long out of the rough on the 14th and missed a short bogey putt.

Woods, who has won 11 of his last 20 PGA Tour events, had birdies on Nos. 4, 7, 10 and 13 in addition to No. 14. Jimenez, a Spaniard who has never won a tournament in the United States, birdied the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh holes.

In near-perfect weather earlier Thursday, Sutton began the tournament with an eagle 2, holing an 8-iron from 136 yards on the 381-yard first hole. He then birdied the second, fourth and seventh holes to go to 5 under par before a bogey at No. 8.

Sutton rebounded with birdies on the 12th and 13th to go to 6 under. But then came the collapse on the 14th.

Huston's round included seven birdies and three bogeys.

Sergio Garcia, wearing knickers in memory of the late Payne Stewart, was 3 over after 13 holes. Stewart, whose knickers were a personal trademark, died in a plane crash four months after winning the 1999 Open.

Sutton, who has victories at The Players Championship and the Greater Greensboro Classic this year, took two weeks off before the Open because of an Achilles' heel injury and was bothered this week by back problems.

His eagle was the first on the opening hole in a U.S. Open played at Pebble Beach. This year's Open is the fourth at Pebble, with the others in 1972, 1982 and 1992.

Sutton tried to practice Wednesday but couldn't get past the first hole.

``I was just hitting balls and I felt a catch in my back, and it hurt pretty bad,'' the 42-year-old said. ``And I've had a little Achilles' heel problem. I'm getting old. What can I say?''

While the weather was close to ideal for most of the first round, nature was finding other ways of making life difficult for the golfers.

The death of a huge tree prompted officials to change the second hole on the Pebble Beach course from a par 5 to a par 4, and many golfers stumbled on that hole in early play.

There were 47 bogeys, a double bogey, triple bogeys by Rory Sabbatini and Rick Heath and just 10 birdies among the first 105 golfers to play the second.

In addition to memories of Stewart, there is plenty of emotion at this centennial U.S. Open. Fans are pulling for Jack Nicklaus, the only player to win an Open (1972) and a U.S. Amateur title (1961) at Pebble Beach.

Nicklaus, playing in his 44th U.S. Open, was scheduled to tee off later Thursday afternoon.

And there's sure to be plenty of drama on a course that has produced some unforgettable U.S. Open memories — such as a final-round duel between Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in 1972, or Tom Watson's decisive birdie on the 17th on a pitch out of the rough in 1982.

Even though nine former champions are in the field, the overwhelming favorite is Woods — who has been playing at Pebble Beach since he was 13, and already has made his mark on the photogenic spot along the craggy Pacific coastline.

Four months ago, in a National Pro-Am that finished a day late because of awful weather, Woods rallied from a 7-shot deficit with seven holes to play. He made three birdies and an eagle from the fairway in those seven holes, and won by two strokes.

It was his sixth straight PGA Tour victory, the longest streak in more than 50 years, and continued a stretch he carries into the U.S. Open — in his last 25 tournaments around the world, Woods has finished out of the top 10 only twice.