NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — Adam Scott must have felt as though he got another crack at the U.S. Open on Thursday at the AT&T National. Only this course felt more like an Open.
Aronimink built on its growing reputation when only 28 players broke par in the opening round despite sunshine and a mild breeze. Scott and Hunter Haas, tied atop the leaderboard at 4-under 66, followed a U.S. Open formula by trying to keep the ball in play off the tee and being cautious on the greens.
"It's a great golf course, obviously, but in great shape," Scott said. "But they've set the course up beautifully. The greens are perfect, and they've got very generous fairways but severe rough, which is a nice balance.
"There are good scores out there, but you have to play well."
The U.S. Open became a talking point because of how hard players had to work Thursday for their scores on a course with firm fairways, fast greens and several diabolical hole locations. The average score was about 71.5, and all but four of the holes played over par.
Rain softened the course at Congressional two weeks ago for the U.S. Open, and while Rory McIlroy turned in a command performance with a record 16-under 268, the 20 scores under par at the end of the week were unusual for an Open.
"They obviously didn't the get the greens where they really would have liked them," said Scott, who missed the cut by one at Congressional. "And here, I think they've got the greens probably where the U.S. Open would have liked them on a Thursday."
The 30-year-old Australian wasn't even planning to play the AT&T National, but he felt his game was in decent shape and that he could use another start. So he lined up Tiger Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, for another week of work. This time, they figure to stick around a little longer.
Haas ran off four straight birdies on the back nine early in his round and was the only player to get to 5 under until he got out of position off the tee at No. 7 and made his lone bogey.
When he played his practice round Tuesday, it was raining. Haas was surprised how quickly the course became firm, especially the greens. The reminder came from a scoreboard he saw just before he teed off, showing four players from the morning batch at no better than 67 — Joe Ogilvie, Jhonattan Vegas, Dean Wilson and Kyle Stanley.
"I said, 'Wow, I thought the scores would be a lot lower than that.' And that's just kind of where I put my mind-set on the scoring and how to play this golf course," Haas said.
Pat Perez was in the group at 68 that included Vijay Singh, Rickie Fowler, Justin Leonard and Robert Garrigus.
New Hope: The PGA Tour's Bob Hope Classic has a new title sponsor and a new format. Organizers said the tournament in La Quinta, Calif., will be called the Humana Challenge after Louisville, Ky.-based Humana agreed to an eight-year deal as title sponsor, along with the William J. Clinton Foundation. The event will be Jan. 16-22. It had been without a title sponsor since Chrysler bailed out after 2008. The tournament will change its format from five days to four, with the first three rounds played in a pro-am format.