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U.S. Open: Tenth hole is the place for fine whine

June 16, 2011 | 12:53 pm

Open One of the whines going into this 111th U.S. Open was the 10th hole.

Which is a par three.

Which is a starting hole for half the field for the first two days.

Which, to the whining players, is a little like starting your marathon in the 26th mile.

It plays 213 yards. Thursday, much of the time, a one-club wind blew into the golfers’ faces.

In front is a lake. The banks from the water are at 70-degree angles right to the wet stuff. If you hit into the side, it doesn’t stay up.

To the left are thousands of strolling, chatting fans, some of them talking loudly about Aunt Edith’s arthritis, others beckoning the waiter on the veranda for more iced tea. Or, more likely, Arnold Palmers.

The golfers usually get to wait five to 10 minutes on the tee, just watching the group in front of them stop at the drop area (meaning they have hit into the water) or rummage around in one of the three traps that seem to have a big magnet placed in each.

By the time they get to hit, the thoughts running through their minds can only be imagined — something like, “I want my mommy.”

Then, with a big gulp, and a last look toward the huge flag over the water that shows gusts blowing right in their face — the USGA flags looks bigger than the American flag, but that might just be from a bad angle — the golfers bravely tee it up and swing.

That’s what Phil Mickelson did early Thursday afternoon. His playing partners, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, had made it across safely. Mickelson got ready, and, almost literally in his backswing, a gust of wind hit. Mickelson’s shot plunked into the water and his 21st U.S. Open had begun with a double-bogey five.

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-- Bill Dwyre, reporting from Bethesda, Md.

Photo: Phil Mickelson hits from the drop zone after hitting his first shot into the water on the 10th hole. Credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters.

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