Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)

The Loop

The world's top three players hardly play like it to start

June 16, 2011

BETHESDA, Md.--Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer are ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the world, although for the uninitiated they didn't provide much evidence to back that up as they made their way around Congressional CC Thursday morning. Paired together in the marquee morning threesome--and playing in relatively benign conditions--the trio of European stars stumbled to start the 111th U.S. Open posting rounds of 74, 75 and 74, respectively.


Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer walk with their caddies on the 11th hole. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

"There were no fireworks," Donald said. "Sometimes you need to get one or two guys on a run to take [everybody along]. It was a bit of a solemn group."

Mind you it appeared Donald might be doing just that when he made birdies on his first two holes. Starting on the par-3 10th hole just as the morning rain that greeted the first few groups had subsided, Donald hit a 4-iron to four feet and converted the putt, then hit a 4-iron approach on the par-4 11th to eight feet to get him off and running. Yet the Englishman, who grabbed the top spot in the ranking last month after winning the European Tour's BMW Championship, couldn't keep the momentum going, playing the next seven holes in five over to turn with a 38.

[__*(Related: Luke Donald takes you on a tour of Chicago.)



"It was just untidy," Donald said. "It wasn't a matter of just that I drove it poorly. When I did hit a fairway, I was short-siding myself [at the green]. And when I had those six- or eight-footers to save some pars, I wasn't making them. It was a struggle today and hopefully I can find a little bit better ball-control tomorrow."

"There's nothing I can do about it now," noted Westwood after his round, doing a poor job of salvaging any positive mental thoughts. Through 11 holes, Westwood sat at even par, only to make four bogeys in his closing seven holes.

Kaymer also birdied the opening 10th hole, bogeyed the 11th and 12th, then made birdie on the par-3 13th. But a combination of wayward drives off the tee -- he hit just eight of 14 fairways -- and 33 putts on the greens prevented him from moving up the leader board.

Interestingly, it's not uncommon for the top three ranked players in the world to get off to shaky starts at the Open. In 2008, when the USGA began to pair them together for the first two rounds of the championship, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott shot a collective three over in their first rounds. In 2009 Woods, Mickelson and Paul Casey were eight over. And last year, Woods, Mickelson and Westwood shot a combined 11 over.

--*Ryan Herrington

Follow me on Twitter: @GWcampusinsider