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Oh struggles to 76

Ted Oh received so many phone calls from well-wishers Wednesday night that he had to call the front desk at his hotel and ask that no more calls be put through.

Being 16 years old and playing in his first U.S. Open has made Oh a celebrity. On Wednesday morning, he appeared live on NBC's Today

show. On Thursday, he finally teed off in the tournament at Baltusrol Golf Club.

And after a birdie at the par-3 ninth hole, he was 1 over par for his round. "I was so pumped up," said Oh, who will be a junior in high school in Torrance, Calif., this fall. But then he hit his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole in the rough and his troubles began.

Oh hit across the fairway into the rough, missed the green, chipped on and three-putted for a 7.

"You have to be patient and that's something I wasn't able to do," Oh said. "I hit that second shot without thinking about it. Then I tried to make the putt from 35 feet. Tom Kite would never have done that. The greens are so fast, the ball kept rolling and rolling. I lost my patience."

Oh also bogeyed the 11th, 13th and 16th holes before a birdie at the 17th. He finished at 6-over-par 76.

Nicklaus is close

Jack Nicklaus, 53, who won the past two U.S. Opens at Baltusrol, in 1967 and 1980, shot 70 _ but it was anything but routine.

At the 470-yard, par-4 first hole, he popped up his drive and was left with 230 yards to the hole. He hit a 2-iron 6 feet from the cup and made birdie. At the 470-yard, par-4 seventh, Nicklaus hit a 195-yard 5-iron shot that stopped 6 inches from the hole for another birdie.

He made bogeys at the ninth and 11th holes, then knocked a 6-iron at the par-3 16th that hit the flag stick and bounced back off the green.

Nicklaus was encouraged. "I feel like I can play with anybody," he said. "I haven't been, but there's no reason why I can't."

Dizzying round

Masters champion Bernhard Langer considered withdrawing on the front nine because he was dizzy from medication he was taking for a stiff neck. Langer managed to finish, shooting 74, and said he won't take the medicine today.

"My neck never really loosened up," he said. "I felt dizzy and off-balance. I couldn't concentrate and I considered walking off. I really needed to sit down and relax for a few minutes, but you can't do that. It got better on the back nine."

The long and short of it

Ponte Vedra's Mark McCumber hit perhaps his longest and shortest drives on consecutive holes. At the 630-yard par-5 17th, McCumber's drive hit a cart path and traveled 363 yards. "Actually, it was the worst drive I hit all day," McCumber said. "I pulled it left of the bunker and it hit some hard stuff and rolled." On the par-5 18th, McCumber's drive hit a tree and dropped down, going only 148 yards.

Making progress

With his game in poor shape, Palm Harbor's Brian Claar entered the U.S. Open without much confidence. And starting with three bogeys couldn't have made him feel much better. But Claar rallied with two birdies on the back nine and finished at 71.

"I've really been struggling," Claar said. "I've played in 19 tournaments already this year and I'm worn out. I'm not happy with 71, but I've got to be happy after the way I started."

Palm Harbor's John Huston also managed to salvage his round after a poor start. "I played awful, really awful," said Huston, who shot 72. "I was just lucky this isn't normal U.S. Open rough. I hit only one fairway on the front nine. I just hung in there."

Odds and ends

Sandy Lyle had enough length to reach the 630-yard 17th in two shots, but he was wide right. Lyle hit his driver 340 yards, then hit a 290-yard 3-wood that landed 10 yards to the right of the green. He pitched up and made birdie. Jay Haas recorded the first eagle of the tournament, hitting a 3-wood on the green at the par-5, 542-yard 18th that stopped 3 feet from the hole. "If you're going to have an eagle putt, that was the one you want to have," Haas said. Later, Mike Hulbert aced the 193-yard 12th hole. "I hit a good, solid 5-iron and it hit soft on the green and just rolled right in the hole," Hulbert said. Hulbert finished with 71. Defending champion Tom Kite bogeyed five of the first eight holes and finished with 75. John Mahaffey had 42 on the front nine that included only two pars, six bogeys and a double bogey. He finished with 78. There were seven eagles and 58 birdies at 18 and only 17 bogeys, making it the easiest hole with an average of 4.647 strokes.

_ BOB HARIG

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