Play of Nos. 1-2-3 is rank in an 'untidy' start

by | Senior Writer

BETHESDA, Md. -- The following email popped into various media computers during the morning session of the 111st U.S. Open on Thursday, courtesy of the bean counters who grind world-ranking numbers in London.

It centered on the prescribed outcome necessary for the members of the marquee pairing of the week, featuring Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, to individually keep or reclaim the No. 1 ranking.

Westwood would go to world No. 1 with a win, irrespective of Donald's finish. ... Kaymer would go to No. 1 if he wins and Donald finishes out of top 15 and Westwood finishes worse than T2nd with one other player.

Martin Kaymer -- 'We were grinding it out' -- and Luke Donald -- 'We all three struggled' -- both shoot 3-over 74. (Getty Images)  
Martin Kaymer -- 'We were grinding it out' -- and Luke Donald -- 'We all three struggled' -- both shoot 3-over 74. (Getty Images)  
Forget about trying to digest it.

After the start the trio pieced together Thursday at Congressional Country Club, before that email missive had arrived, it had become irrelevant -- and unless something changes quickly, so is their presence in the season's second major.

Donald and Kaymer sputtered with 3-over 74s and Westwood bungled his way to a 75, which didn't exactly have the crowd screaming for more, despite the fact they represent the last three guys to top the world charts.

"It was a solemn group," said Donald, the current No. 1.

Hey, it was infectious. It was a solemn gallery, too. They wanted to party with the trio, but outside of Donald's stellar start with birdies on the first two holes, which he quickly flushed away, there wasn't much to crow about.

"It was untidy," Donald said.

We had come to expect anything but from him, of course. Donald has amassed an incredible 14 top-10 finishes in his past 15 global starts dating to last fall, moving to No. 1 last month by taking down Westwood at the European Tour's signature event. Thus, he and Westwood had plenty in common Thursday other than their pairing and nationality.

Both entered the week as the co-favorites in the betting line. Some U.K. pounds have taken a pounding, for sure.

The highlight of the day might have been the first 15 minutes. The trio started just after 8 a.m. on the daunting 10th hole, a 199-yard par-3 with a forced carry over water. Five of the six threesomes that preceded them off the tee hit balls in the water, but Donald and Kaymer made birdies.

"I was off and running and thought it was going to be a dream day," Donald admitted.

Not so much. In fact, not at all. Whatever it was, they all had a bad case of the blahs.

"I tried on every shot," Westwood said. "It just didn't work out."

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Kaymer, the reigning PGA champion, reaffirmed what everybody could see, which is that none of the trio was remotely playing to their expectations.

"We were grinding it out," the German star said. "We were trying to stay in there and didn't want to throw the tournament away."

Donald's downturn was the most surprising, because his birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 probably picked up 2.5 shots on the field, on average. Then he three-putted the 14th from 50 feet, starting a run in which he played six holes in 5 over to finish his front nine.

It wasn't any better elsewhere. Kaymer had six bogeys and Westwood bogeyed two of the three par-5 holes.

"I think we all three struggled a little bit," Donald said of his Ryder Cup brethren. "There were no fireworks and nobody got on a run."

In NASCAR terms, there was nobody to draft from. Which is probably why the fans didn't exactly throw rose petals in their path.

"The crowd wasn't outrageous," Donald said in his typically understated fashion.

If there was a positive for the three Euro amigos, it's that nobody really runs away with the U.S. Open and it only gets more gruesome from here. At least, Thursday's terrible trio hopes so.

"Everybody knows it's only going to get tougher," Donald said. "If I shoot some better scores, I'm right there."

If not, having missed the cut, he'll be anywhere but here.


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