Can Lefty make the weekend?

And which European star is most likely heading home?

Updated: June 15, 2012, 2:24 AM ET
ESPN.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oh, how fast fortunes can change at a U.S. Open. One minute a golfer is on the leaderboard, the next he's trying to make a 6-footer for double-bogey.

After he shot a 1-under 69 in Round 1 of the U.S. Open on Thursday, golf fans are clearly seeing Memorial Tiger, not Masters Tiger, at the Olympic Club.

So what did our band of experts take notice of? They break down all the action from the U.S. Open.


1. What surprised you the most about Tiger Woods' opening round?


Paul Azinger, ESPN golf analyst, major champion and Ryder Cup-winning captain: That he missed a short birdie putt on No. 2. … But seriously, it looked like the old Tiger Woods. I had a feeling about him coming in. Who doesn't? I feel that he's going to play well every week, so it's surprising when he doesn't. So either nothing surprised me or just that he missed the short birdie putt.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: The round was so simple, almost easy. Of course it wasn't. But Woods made it appear that way. He made two bogeys, but never really appeared in trouble. He missed a short birdie putt, but made a long one. He took care of the hole you must birdie, No. 17, and played the brutal stretch of 1 through 6 in 1 under. It was a solid round of golf.

Ian O'Connor, ESPNNewYork.com columnist: Just how under control he was right from the start. His swing was quiet, and he projected a vibe of calm while Phil and Bubba were all over the map. Tiger had the perfect conservative game plan for Round 1, and near-perfect execution.

Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior national columnist: Nothing. His play was an extension of how he played when he won at Memorial.


2. Which player has a better shot to still make the cut on Friday: Phil Mickelson or Bubba Watson?


Paul Azinger: Phil Mickelson. I'm pulling for him, but I was surprised with his play [Thursday]. He's just not going to feel good physically every day. He sounded great going in, but he's got to play well Friday and shoot no worse than 1-over to make the cut.

Bob Harig: Lefty. Bubba seemed beaten before he started, and that played out in a sloppy round that saw numerous mistakes and difficulty on a course he clearly is not big on. Mickelson, meanwhile, shot two shots better, a 76. And while that was not impressive, he is just two shots off the projected cut now, and that is bound to go higher.

Ian O'Connor: Phil has the better shot. One more time, with feeling, Bubba sounded like a guy ready to take a beating from Olympic in his Tuesday news conference. Mickelson will fight the good U.S. Open fight (that's why he has finished second five times), and I'm not sure Watson is going to really get engaged.

Gene Wojciechowski: Phil. I think Bubba has convinced himself he can't play well here.


3. First six holes at the Olympic Club -- as hard as advertised?


Paul Azinger: Yes. Half way through the morning, the field that had played the first six holes was at 93 over par. Yes, it lived up to the hype as to how difficult it was going to play.

Bob Harig: No doubt. Those six holes had five of the toughest of the opening day. It doesn't get much more daunting than that. Of the top six players on the leaderboard, all but Justin Rose failed to birdie one of them, and Tiger Woods was 1-under on those holes. That is a huge advantage on the field.

Ian O'Connor: Pretty much, though it was hard to live up to that penal colony billing. Casey Martin was 1-under over the last 12 holes, 5-over for the first six. Some of that was nerves, some of it was the brutal opening test.

Gene Wojciechowski: I would rather take a very long media shuttle ride with Harig than play those holes.


4. Top 3 in the world: How many are trunk slamming Friday night?


Paul Azinger: Two guys will be slamming the trunk. Westwood, I think he will make it in the end. Two will not. They'll be catching [a flight] back to Europe.

Bob Harig: No. 1 Luke Donald appears headed home, simply because it is asking a lot to shoot several under par on this golf course, which he will likely need to do. No. 3 Lee Westwood is not out of contention in the tournament and a decent score gets him back in the mix. Rory McIlroy shot a disappointing 77 and has work to do, but the feeling here is that only Donald will be leaving on Friday night.

Ian O'Connor: Luke Donald might be smarter than a fifth grader, but he's not better than an eighth grader (Andy Zhang also shot 79). The world's No. 1 player is cooked, but Westwood is safe and I actually think McIlroy will rally a bit to make it through the weekend.

Gene Wojciechowski: Luke Donald is a goner. But here's the thing: the cut line could be very high, so anything is possible (classic hedging response).