Golf / US Open Championship: Lyle salvages opening round with spectacular finish: Three-way tie at top of the pile while Ballesteros and Olazabal struggle to tame Baltusrol course

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The Independent Online
SANDY LYLE, whose best finish in a US Open was joint 16th, with Nick Faldo, in Florida two years ago, came off the 18th at Baltusrol yesterday wearing the expression of a man given a last- minute reprieve. Like most European players, Lyle's memories of this New Yorker's playground are distant and dim.

When the US Open Championship was last held here in 1980, Lyle shot 73 and 76 and missed the half-way cut. He was three over par after 11 holes of the first round yesterday but redeemed his score with one of the deadliest finishes ever recorded at this historic course. The 17th and 18th are par fives of 630 and 542 yards. At the penultimate hole he smacked his drive 337 yards and then hit a 3-wood pin high to the right of the green. His pitch to the flag was inches from an eagle three but a birdie put him at two over par. At the 18th he hit a three-wood approach into a bunker to the left of the green and he holed out from 50 yards for an eagle.

Before the start of the championship Lyle said he would willingly settle for four level par scores of 70. His birdie, eagle climax gave him a 70, four strokes adrift of Scott Hoch and Joey Sindelar. 'It was something of a

bonus,' Lyle said. 'I hardly made a putt all day.'

Ian Woosnam joined Lyle on 70 when he holed a 15-foot putt for a birdie four at the last. Woosnam played steadily throughout a long, hot day, as indeed did Faldo. Faldo went to the turn in 35, one over par, and his only blemish was a bogey five at the seventh. The world No 1 had no problems in making pars but it was the birdies that eluded him. However, he pulled a stroke back at the 18th to come back in 35 and join Lyle and Woosnam on 70. The Open champion was playing with Tom Kite, the US Open champion, and Justin Leonard, an amateur from Dallas. Leonard shot 69, Kite 75.

Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal were in sympathy, scoring 76 and 74. Thirteen years ago on Friday the 13th Ballesteros, after a 75 in the first round here, was disqualified for missing his tee time. There was a grave danger of this happening to most of the field yesterday when the New Jersey Turnpike ground to a halt in a 10-mile tailback. A 20-minute journey took three and a half hours.

At least Ballesteros was consistent. He went to the turn in 38 and came back in 38. No, he did not want to discuss his round. Olazabal, by comparison, was a fountain of information. 'It was rubbish,' he said. 'I couldn't have played worse.'

Bernhard Langer, the Masters champion, also found the whole thing a pain in the neck. He received medical treatment yesterday morning to a stiff neck. He may have got it through watching too much television. 'It's not good,' Langer said. 'I can't turn my head to the left.' He struggled to the turn with two bogeys and a double-bogey against one birdie. Langer came in with a 74 after which he said: 'I considered withdrawing early in the round, because I felt dizzy.' He said he would play in the second round today.

Hoch, one of whose playing partners was Colin Montgomerie, teed off at 7.10am and considered that an advantage. This is the man who, pitted against Faldo, missed a two-foot putt to win the Masters in a play-off in 1989. Since then he has been playing like an also-ran and last year he had an operation on a cartilage to his left shoulder. 'I'm learning how to play again,' he said, 'but the last couple of weeks have been terrible . . . the worst I've ever played.'

Hoch - out in 33, back in 33 - made his first move by rolling in a 40-foot putt for a two at the fourth. 'When I got to two under par I wanted to walk into the clubhouse. I was fortunate. I had a band aid on my swing and I was like a duck out there. On the surface it may have looked OK but underneath I was paddling like heck to stay afloat. I don't see there being many low scores on this course.'

Sindelar, along with Ray Floyd, had the best inward nine of the day, coming home in 32.

Montgomerie, third in the US Open 12 months ago, had a one over par 71. 'It was a safe, reasonable start,' he said. 'You don't get many chances on that course and I only took one of them.'

Hoch, Sindelar and the Australia Craig Parry were one stroke in front of Lee Janzen and Craig Stadler and two in front of a group that included Fred Couples. Janzen has missed only one cut this year and his consistency has put him into the reckoning for the US Ryder Cup team.

US OPEN (Baltusrol, Springfield, NJ): First- round scores (US unless stated): 66 S Hoch, J Sindelar, C Parry (Aus). 67 L Janzen, C Stadler. 68 R Mediate, M Smith, C Pavin, F Couples, R Wrenn, B McCallister, R Floyd. 69 M Weeks, W Grady (Aus), B Glasson, J Maggert, G Waite (NZ), * J Leonard. 70 J Adams, D Edwards, M McCumber, M Standly, S Simpson, V Heafner, L Nelson, S Lyle (GB), I Baker-Finch (Aus), S Pate, K Triplett, B Gilder, M Christie, D Weaver, L Roberts, D Love III, S Elkingon (Aus), W Levi, R Fehr, T Watson, P Stewart, I Woosnam (GB), N Faldo (GB), M Calcavecchia, J Nicklaus. 71 C Montgomerie (GB), S Flesch, J Sluman, K Clearwater, J Edwards, E Els (SA), J Haas, R Cochran, N Ozaki (Japan), D Waldorf, K Wentworth, B Claar, D Barr (Can), B Thompson, A Knoll (Can), H Twitty, T Johnstone (Zim), F Allem (SA), M Hulbert, B Estes, N Price (Zim), P Azinger, K Gibson, M Donald, T Lehman. 72 S Murphy, B Andrade, E Kirkby, J Smith, S Stricker, D Frost (SA), D Mast, R Gamez, N Henke, B Tway, M Brooks, S Lowery, G Twiggs, C Beck, J Huston, J D Blake, B Faxon, J Daly, M Kuramoto (Japan), T Sipula. 73 E Whitman, B Fabel, T Rhyan, C Strange, H Irwin, L Mize, W Wood, B Tuten, J Flannery, B Cheesman, G Morgan, R Allenby (Aus), F Zoeller, D Forsman, V Singh (Fiji), G Norman (Aus), D Gilford (GB). 74 * D Berganio, J M Olazabal (Sp), J Gallagher Jnr, B Lane (GB), K Perry, K Burton. 75 R Maltbie, J Cook, E Hoos, B Langer (Ger), T Kite. 76 D Court, D A Weibring, S Ballesteros (Sp), B Britton, * T Oh, K Giancola, P Jacobsen, C Espinosa (Mex). 77 D Peoples, M Pfeil, M Singer, M Balen, A Forsbrand (Swe), M Springer, J Thorpe, A North. 78 D Brown, M Colandro, J Mahaffey. 79 J McMillan. 80 M O'Meara. 81 K Roman.

* denotes amateur

----------------------------------------------------------------- CARD OF THE COURSE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par 1st 470 4 10th 454 4 2nd 381 4 11th 428 4 3rd 466 4 12th 193 3 4th 194 3 13th 401 4 5th 413 4 14th 415 4 6th 470 4 15th 430 4 7th 470 4 16th 216 3 8th 374 4 17th 630 5 9th 205 3 18th 542 5 Out: 3,443 34 In: 3,709 36 Total: 7,152 70 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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