It wasn't exactly the kind of homecoming West Chester's Sean O'Hair expected.
This season has been mostly a struggle for him. But he's a member at Aronomink Golf Club, where he tied for 11th in last year's AT&T National despite playing with a sore back.
At the moment, he'd probably take that. Assuming he makes the 36-hole cut.
"It sucks," is how O'Hair summed up his opening 6-over-par 76 yesterday. He wouldn't get many arguments.
He started early in the morning from the 10th hole, with 2008 champion Anthony Kim and Cameron Beckman. Neither of them fared much better, coming in with 73s. O'Hair, who closed with a 75 on Sunday to tie for 63rd at the Travelers Championship, shot a 42 on the back nine that included a doublebogey at the par-3 17th when he hit a 6-iron into the water protecting the front left of the green. He did tour the front side in 34, even with a bogey at No. 8.
"It's tough to be on a course you play on a regular basis and play like this," said O'Hair, who's missed the cut in seven of his last 10 starts, sandwiching ties for 19th at The Players Championship and 16th at the Crowne Plaza Invitational in May. "There's really no excuse. I played bad. It's all on me. That's the end of it . . .
"It was a rough day. The back nine was nothing less than a nightmare. That's kind of been the story of my game this year. I'll play really good, then really bad . . . If [the 6-iron] was 2 yards right or farther, I would have had a makable birdie putt. It was a difficult pin position. It wasn't that bad of a shot. I just missed in the wrong spot.
"It's more timing than anything. I'm not going to put too much into today. I'll try to take the [front nine] into tomorrow. Go beat balls on the range and try to figure it out."
His biggest problem was with his driver. He hit only four of 14 fairways. And that won't get it done at Cobbs Creek.
"It's ball striking," O'Hair said. "That's all there is to it. You can't play this course [from the rough]. Off the tee, on a scale of 1 to 10, I was a 2. I might have hit one good drive, and everything wasn't quite in place. Early, I was missing everything right, and then [on the other nine], I was kind of missing everything left. It's just kind of going back and forth.
"I'm going out there on the golf course a little bit uncomfortable. The swing wasn't monitored at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, and I'm paying the price right now. It's been kind of better, but it's still not there clearly.
"If you hit fairways you can score."
He can only hope to find out for himself in Round 2. Or else he'll have the holiday weekend free.
The other guy in the field with local ties, Jim Furyk, had an even uglier time of it. The 2010 Player of the Year, who was born in West Chester and grew up in Lancaster, had a 77 that ended with a double bogey. Putting has been an issue and apparently that continued to be a big part of the problem. Furyk, who hosted the 1-day Exelon Invitational for 11 years at various venues in this area, has missed three consecutive cuts and four of the last five . . .
Defending champion Justin Rose started with a 70 . . . The first-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win only five of the 26 stroke-play events this season. In the 4-year history of this event, it's happened once: K.J. Choi in 2007 at Congressional. Choi, who won the Players Championship in May, had a 69 . . . Troy Matteson (68) eagled the 400-yard par-4 seventh by holing out a sand wedge . . . Jhonattan Vegas (67) had the only bogey-free round . . . Patrick Cantlay, one of two amateurs here, had a 70 after getting in on a sponsor's exemption . . . Erik Compton, who also had a sponsor's exemption, shot 76 . . . Vijay Singh (68) has never finished worse than 12th in three previous appearances in this event. That was in 2007. He tied for seventh last year . . .