PITTSFORD — Hunter Mahan was heated after his opening 18.
The No. 22 player in the world was tied for 36th after shooting even par Thursday, and though Tiger Woods seemed pleased with his 71, Mahan was disgusted with his 70.
“Didn’t hit it very good,” Mahan said. “Drove it terrible. Just didn’t hit it very good. Not what you’re going to need to play this course well.”
He said the rain that fell overnight Wednesday into Thursday did not help.
“The course is really, really soft,” he said. “It’s hard to be aggressive on the back pins because the ball is spinning so much. The ball wasn’t bouncing off the fairways like they have been, so it’s affecting the course quite a bit.”
Mahan, a 31-year-old Oklahoma State graduate, has four top-10 finishes this year and one second-place finish (World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in February).
He has made the cut in 17 of the 20 events he has played.
Mahan didn’t enjoy the weather, but Jason Dufner said it helped.
“Probably played a little bit easy for us today on this golf course,” said Dufner, who shot a 2-under 68. “The weather last night and this morning kind of helped soften the greens up. Still got to hit it in the fairways to be able to score.”
Dufner is in a 11-way tie for 11th place, in a group that includes world No. 4 Justin Rose and No. 13 Steve Stricker.
“The course is going to dry out and firm out, so you are going to have to be in the fairway even more,” Dufner said. “You are not going to be able to be as aggressive with your iron shots at some point this week. So I think the scores are generally trimmed down toward that even-par number, even-par to 5-under, just depending on what weather we get and how firm and fast the course gets.”
Thursday morning and the early afternoon were gorgeous at Oak Hill. The sun beat down on the course, and the muggy, humid day hovered around the low 70s.
At 4:25 p.m., though, thunderstorms caused a suspension in play. Play resumed an hour and 10 minutes later.
Paul Casey, who finished 3-under 67, was excited to discuss his day on the links.
“Really happy with that,” Casey said. “Three under was fantastic.”
The key to Casey’s round, in his opinion, was a par save on No. 18, “which allowed me to keep going on the front nine and hit some wonderful shots,” he said. Casey played the back nine first.
Marcus Fraser started his day with two bogeys. His prospects for the tournament didn’t look very promising, which would be consistent with the year he is having.
Fraser has played only five events, and he’s made three cuts and missed two (one of those missed cuts came in June at the U.S. Open). But things turned around after the rough start Thursday; he birdied three of the next five holes and finished the day in a six-way tie for fifth (which includes Casey) after shooting a 3-under 67 to put him two strokes behind leaders Jim Furyk and Adam Scott.
“A bogey, bogey start was pretty standard for the way things are going the last few months,” he said. “Went out there and gave it everything I got at the time. Been struggling a bit, and everything sort of came together.”
Fraser, 35, lives in Australia and is ranked No. 91 in the world.
Bo Van Pelt withdrew from the tournament after his first round due to a hip injury. He shot a 10-over par 80, good for No. 152 in the 156-player field, which is now 155 deep.
There are 20 club professionals in the field.
Seven of them tied for the highest club-professional score at 3 over: Bob Sowards, Ryan Polzin, Jeff Sorenson, JC Anderson, Danny Balin, Kirk Hanefield and David Muttitt.
Four players made three consecutive birdies: Robert Garrigus (-3), Dufner (-2), Rich Beem (+1) and Matt Jones (+2).