Golf Roundup

Castro leads at Congressional

Roberto Castro missed the U.S. Open at Merion. It felt as if he was playing one Thursday in the AT&T National at Congressional in Bethesda, Md.

The course that has hosted three U.S. Opens looked as though it could hold another in a moment's notice. Only a dozen players shot in the 60s, with Castro leading the way at a 5-under 66 that required some of his best golf. He made three straight birdies late in his round with a 20-foot putt, a perfect 3-wood into a par 5 and a chip-in.

"It's very similar in that there's not a lot of birdies out there," Castro said. "There's not many good breaks or bad breaks to be had out there. If you drive it in the rough, you drove it in the rough. If you hit it in the fairway, you can go from there."

The average score was just over 73, despite cloud cover for most of the day leading to soft conditions and only a light wind.

Billy Horschel, who tied for fourth in the real U.S. Open two weeks ago, began his day with a 50-foot birdie putt, added a pair of birdies over the next three holes and then hung on for a 68. That was the best score among the early starters. Bud Cauley and Graham DeLaet each had a 68 in the afternoon.

"It's like another U.S. Open," Horschel said. "Off the fairways, the rough is thick. Fortunately, the greens are soft so they're really receptive. It's still a tough golf course."

The eight players at 69 included Jim Furyk, 19-year-old Jordan Spieth and Brandt Snedeker, whose round included a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole in which he covered more than the 635 yards it was playing.

Snedeker snap-hooked his drive into the rough and was blocked by trees, leaving him no choice but to chip backward or play down the adjacent fourth hole. He hit hybrid down the fourth, and just his luck, wound up on the member's tee. From about 180 yards, he hammered a 6-iron through more trees, and the big roar told him he had reached the green. From there, he made a 55-foot birdie putt. Simple as that.

"Kind of stealing a couple there is what it feels like," he said.

Davis Love III had an 83 with a sore hip and then withdrew, not wanting to risk further injury. Rory Sabbatini withdrew with a sore back after he was 8 over in 12 holes. Charlie Beljan had an 84.

Lucas Glover, a former U.S. Open champion, called it "the most boring round of PGA Tour golf I've heard."

Heard?

"I heard two cheers across the whole golf course all morning," Glover said after a hard-earned 71. "They definitely weren't for my group."

There were no tricks at Congressional, and there certainly was no faking it. Masters champion Adam Scott hurt himself with an ordinary day by his standards off the tee and wound up with a 73. Hunter Mahan hit only six fairways - he's one of the best drivers in golf - and shot a 75.

Officials cut the rough Wednesday, though its thickness presented the bigger problem than the height of the grass. It's tougher than Congressional was for the U.S. Open two years ago, when the course was relatively soft throughout the week. Rory McIlroy played better than anyone that week and won by eight shot at a record 16-under 268.

Ha-Neul Kim leads U.S. Women's Open after 1 round

South Korea's Ha-Neul Kim upstaged friend Inbee Park to take the first-round lead at her first U.S. Women's Open at Southampton, N.Y.

Kim shot a bogey-free 6-under 66 at Sebonack to lead Park by a stroke. The top-ranked Park is trying to make history by winning the first three majors of the year.

"I'm enjoying myself," Kim said through a translator. "I'm just happy to be here and to be playing in this big event. I'm not really thinking about winning or results but enjoying the moment."

Currently a member of the KLPGA Tour, Kim is a seven-time winner in South Korea. She kept giving herself short birdie putts Thursday and making them.

Kim birdied her second-to-last hole with daylight waning to claim the lead after Park held it for most of the day with her 67 in the morning session.

No player has won the first three majors in a season with at least four majors. The 2008 U.S. Women's Open champion, Park has already won five times this year, including her last two tournaments.

American Lizette Salas, Swedes Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist and South Korea's I.K. Kim shot 68.

Concerned about bad weather, tournament officials moved up the tees, and with the rain holding off, Park was able to play aggressively.

"I never had practiced from those tees, so I was a little bit shocked when I went to the tees," Park said.

Not that she was complaining.

She repeatedly set up short putts, and the way she has excelled in her short game lately, Park was headed to a low score.

"So instead of hitting like 5-irons, we were hitting 9-irons, and that was making the course much easier," she said. "I was actually able to go for some pins and give myself a lot of opportunities today. I made a lot of putts and didn't leave much out there."

Starting on No. 10, Park birdied her first hole, then started racking up pars. She made the turn at 2 under before birdies on three of her next four holes.

At 5 under, Park briefly struggled with her tee shots, needing to save par on Nos. 5 and 7. On No. 6, her 15th hole of the day, she had to lay up out of the tall grass and settled for her lone bogey.

Park got back to 5 under on the par-5 eighth with a chip shot to about 5 feet that set up a birdie putt.

Nordqvist birdied her last two holes to pull into a tie for third. Hedwall and Kim were each at 5 under with a hole left, but closed with bogeys.

Salas, a 23-year-old former Southern California star, played with Park in the last group of the final round of this year's Kraft Nabisco Championship. Three strokes back starting the day, she opened with a double bogey and tumbled to 25th after shooting a 79.

Huston leads Senior Players

John Huston shot a 5-under 65 to take the first-round lead in the Senior Players Championship at Pittsburgh.

Huston started on No. 10 and was even par halfway through his round before making a big move on the front nine at soggy Fox Chapel. Huston shot 5-under 30 coming in, including four birdies and an eagle on the short par-4 seventh. The 52-year-old Huston missed three months this season because of lower back problems.

Fred Couples, Duffy Waldorf, Fred Funk and Russ Cochran were a stroke back in the third major on the Champions Tour schedule. Tom Pernice Jr. had three straight birdies to start his round and led a group of five players at 67.

The start of play was delayed nearly five hours because of heavy rain.

When the sky cleared the soft greens allowed players to be aggressive on the typically treacherous greens at the rolling course located a few miles up the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh.

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